Wien Museum Exhibition Catalogue “Klimt. The Collection of the Wien Museum”

Page 1

wien museum


The collection of the wien museum


Foreword So Near, So Far Wolfgang Kos

Catalogue Raisonné of the Work of Gustav Klimt in the Wien Museum 6

Texts The Klimt Collection of the Wien Museum Facts and Conclusions Ursula Storch Highlights and Rarities The Klimt Drawings of the Wien Museum Marian Bisanz-Prakken Sodom and Gomorrah Updated Gustav Klimt’s Image of Woman and of the Foreign Brigitte Borchhardt-Birbaumer To Each Age, a Klimt of Its Own Gustav Klimt between Politics and Society Sophie Lillie



1 The School of Applied Arts 1877–1881


2 Allegories 1882–1897


3 Commissions 1883–1898


4 Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater 1888–89

A Portrait of the Late Nineteenth Century Gustav Klimt’s Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater Georg Gaugusch, Sophie Lillie

5 Secession 1897–1903


112 133

6 The University Paintings 1894/95–1903 155 30

7 Figure Studies 1898–1917/18


8 Portraits 1883–1917/18 199 40

Gustav Klimt’s Practice of Intervisuality “Klimtifying” in the Vienna Secession and the Wiener Werkstätte William M. Johnston


Klimt for Everyone Observations on a Jubilee Year Kerstin Krenn


9 Nudes 1897–1917 229 10 The Kiss / Stoclet Frieze 1904–1908


Additional Items in the Klimt Collection of the Wien Museum Photographs / Memorabilia / Souvenirs 277

Appendix Selected Bibliography Selected Exhibitions Authors Acknowledgments / Image Credits

296 298 300 301

So Near, So Far

Foreword Gustav Klimt is said to be “a minor master

emphasizes the innovative and progressive

from Vienna.” The source of this verdict is an

elements of his art.

English art critic, who delivered it a number of

What does it mean when an epochal artist, one

years ago when Tate Liverpool mounted the first

regarded as pivotal and timeless, overshadows all

major British Klimt exhibition—after decades

of subsequent Austrian art for an entire century,

of enthusiastically received celebrations of

even becoming synonymous with Vienna as a city

Klimt in major museums throughout the West

of culture? In 2004, with the exhibition Alt Wien—

and the Far East. Our initial reaction might

Die Stadt, die niemals war (Old Vienna: The City

be: Is it permissible to write that? Wasn’t the

That Never Was), the Wien Museum took up the

Austrian cultural attaché obliged to register his

theme of Vienna’s reflexivity and its antimodernist

aggrievement at this level of ignorance in relation

yearning for the past. One small chapter was

to “our” world record holder?

devoted to “Vienna 1900,” yet another instance

This provocative rejection—amounting virtually

of the “nostalgia for old Vienna” which has long

to an act of lèse-majesté—of the universal

since abandoned the Biedermeier era as its

validity of an artist who has long occupied an

overarching narrative focus. The wall text read:

almost transcendental status (at least from a

“Today, we are proud of the fact that we were

Viennese perspective) was tied to an instructive

once modern.”

comparison with other epochal artists such as

The suggestive, bewitching, and commercially

Picasso and Kandinsky: while each struck out

appealing glamour of the beautiful as it emanates

onto radical pathways around the same time,

from Klimt’s paintings has long since immunized

opening the door to modernism, then Klimt—it

Vienna’s greatest master from nuanced

is said—was the artist who, in his specialized

considerations. Vienna and Klimt: a Mobius

Viennese biotope, drove the aesthetic of the

strip of self-referentiality and affirmation. The

nineteenth century to a grandiose finale.

process of heroization has reached a stage of

Klimt’s crowning achievement was nonetheless

rigidification; the cult of the masterworks, the

a terminus, supplying no new impulses for

incessant process of reproduction, have led to

development in the arts. Much earlier, the art

automatized perception.

historian Werner Hofmann had claimed that Klimt was only peripherally related to the radical

Klimt as Advertising Agency

upheavals of early twentieth century art. In


opposition to this stance, “official” Austrian

Klimt runs one of the most successful Viennese

Klimt doctrine—seamlessly interwoven with

advertising agencies—posthumously. Over the

the thematic complex known as “Vienna 1900”—

past few decades, the visual vocabulary of Klimt

Detail of the golden dome from the Secession Building used by WienTourismus as an advertising motif for the 2012 Klimt Year

and the Jugendstil has become stabilized in

collection of works on paper. I shall discuss

Vienna as the effective decor of a fruitful process

these—now presented in their entirety—below in

of image reconstruction. For cultural tourism,

greater detail.

Klimt represents an exclusivity factor that unites a number of different target groups and ideally

The Double Klimt

supplements the mythology of the Habsburgs and the topos of Gemütlichkeit, that marriage of

“Each generation discovers a new Klimt,” claims

imperial tradition and coziness. Around a half-

Klimt expert Tobias G. Natter. Certainly, this is the

century ago, with the rediscovery of the upscale

case for specialists, though it is perhaps less true

label “Vienna 1900,” the city’s firmament of

for the general public. The latter has consistently

memory was charged with a whiff of modernity.

been confronted with an artist whose paintings

And yet this “golden age” of innovation through

are the most expensive ever produced in Austria,

which Vienna has so successfully asserted its

yet whose oeuvre has been reduced in the

worldwide cultural significance lies farther

popular imagination to at most twenty celebrated

and farther in the past, and it has long been

canvases—a set of works that have, moreover, a

threatened by depletion, reduced to no more

kind of double existence: a reality both physical,

than formulaic nostalgia. Today, Klimt enjoys the

in museums, and virtual, in the unending stream

status of a secularized municipal saint, and his

of reproductions. One could speak of the Mona

aesthetic repertoire serves as the gold mine for

Lisa effect: the image is so familiar that tourists

continually new uses. The Wien Museum, too,

do little more than check it off their list dutifully

profits from this.

when at the museum. Particularly for individuals

In the Viennese museum landscape, Klimt is

with a more developed interest in art, Klimt is a

a potent currency for measuring significance.

phenomenon one prefers to ignore: “for me, Klimt

This becomes clear already from the number of

was always just too over-hyped,” says the artist

loan requests that are received. At the very top

Ulrike Lienbacher, for example.

stands the Belvedere, its ranking attributable

This attitude of avoidance may be related to

to the presence of iconic works like The Kiss.

Klimt marketing, which has had cash registers

The Leopold Museum struggles to retain second

ringing for ages. For there exists a second

place. Third place is shared, loosely speaking,

Klimt, the one feeding the merchandisers, for

between the Albertina, with its drawings of

whom the images are little more than the raw

exceptional quality, and the Wien Museum,

material for design variations. In early 2012, the

home not just to a top painting, the Portrait of

Wien Museum conducted a survey on Facebook

Emilie Flöge, but also (in storage) to an enormous

entitled “Worst of Klimt.” Participation was 7

extensive, and the findings led well beyond

Klimt collection (the largest anywhere in

the customary souvenirs: presented online

terms of sheer numbers), already known to art

among other things was a Smart Car with Klimt

lovers through numerous guest appearances

decor, a Klimt toilet seat (no kidding!), a Klimt

in museums worldwide, will be shown in its

bathing suit, even a Klimt body tattoo. Viewed

entirety. Alongside world-famous paintings and

in terms of cultural history, this repro and retro

Klimt’s censored Secession poster, alongside

Klimt is at least as significant for the history of

his death mask, photographs, and his painter’s

the impact of his oeuvre—so well-adapted to

smock, our holdings include some four hundred

kitsch—as the scholarly reception. In a paper

drawings: an immense cosmos. There are sheets

on the collecting strategy of the Wien Museum,

from all career phases, from the student years

we read: “The transformation of art and elite

until shortly before his death, which cohere into

culture into clichés that are reproduced on a

larger cycles. The enormous wealth of sketches,

mass scale is an important element of reception

detailed studies after nature, variations, and

history: an institution such as the Wien Museum,

“finished” drawings is presented—organized

which owns important works by Klimt, is also

into thematic ensembles—in a dense, serial

responsible for the production of retro-Jugendstil

hanging: a shimmering stream of snapshots

souvenirs.” Now, a municipal museum devoted to

offering access to the working process of an

cultural history is to be distinguished from one

artist who struggled doggedly before arriving

devoted exclusively to art, which is why we have

at a final composition. Value judgments become

begun recently to collect “Klimtified” products

relativized, the extraordinary appears as

as documents of contemporary history. Some of

the distillate of the continuous. We are well

these will be on display in the exhibition, along

aware that the consistently non-hierarchical

with selections from the “Worst of Klimt” survey.

installation developed by curator Ursula Storch

Perhaps the new view of Klimt is one that

in collaboration with the architectural office

emerges from the artist’s popularity: even during

BWM (which does, however, subtly emphasize

his lifetime, his art’s ingratiating quality and its

exceptional individual sheets) involves a risky

proximity to kitsch were factors in his success.

game with the aura of an artist whose most

In this light, Klimt appears increasingly as a Pop

fleeting sketches are regularly auctioned as

artist, one entirely comparable to Andy Warhol or

master drawings.

Keith Haring.

In addition, there are videos that not only narrate

But there is also a more serious bridge between

the history of the collection, but are conceived

contemporary art and the “golden” Klimt,

as “discursive commentary”—with statements

namely a renewed interest in the ornamental and

on “Klimt overkill,” on the artist’s significance for


tourism in Vienna, and on his ambivalent image of women, also in light of the considerable number

The Collection of the Wien Museum

of often explicitly erotic drawings contained in the collection.

Nearly all of Vienna’s museums are taking

A related element is the series of “Klimt debates”

advantage of 2012—the year that marks Klimt’s

featured in the accompanying program, including

one-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday—to present

one with the title “Images of Women from the

their Klimt holdings. It is also an opportunity to

Day before Yesterday?” and one on the topic

display less-known works alongside canonized

“Klimt Overdose: A Danger for Vienna.”

masterpieces. Hopefully, a range of approaches

Well adapted to this context is a headline that

and modes of presentation will generate startling

appeared recently in Die Presse: “Can Klimt Still

perspectives and illuminating distinctions in

Be Rescued?”

relation to a star artist who often suffers from the conviction that we know him all too well. The Wien Museum has resolved upon a radical approach: for the first time ever, the museum’s 8

Thanks to Klimt For her role as curator of the exhibition—giving the museum its first opportunity to examine a core ensemble of works held in its care—and for her development of the show’s underlying concept, my thanks go to Ursula Storch, who has been passionately involved with the Klimt collection of the Wien Museum for many years. The exhibition design is the work of Johann Moser, in collaboration with Sanja Utech, of BWM Architekten; the graphic design is by the office Perndl+Co, with Gerhard Bauer, in collaboration with Katharina Hetzeneder, contributing the exhibition graphics and Josef Perndl, in collaboration with Aleksandra Gustin, the catalogue design. My deepest thanks to all of you for your commitment and your efforts, as always with great functional and formal precision. This volume will serve as a catalogue raisonné of our Klimt collection; many drawings are published here for the first time. Kerstin Krenn’s collaboration has proven invaluable, both regarding the cataloguing of the oeuvre and the realization of the exhibition and publication. My gratitude goes to all of the catalogue authors for their contributions, which provide crucial reinterpretations of Gustav Klimt’s works and their reception. Ralph Gleis supplied major support with regard to the media stations. My thanks also to Isabelle Exinger-Lang for production management, and Andreas Gruber and Alexandra Moser for paper conservation. Complementing the exhibition is the Vienna Library’s presentation of posters, based on a concept by Julia König and Sylvia Mattl-Wurm: the installation traces the history of Klimt exhibitions, as well as the transfer of imagery from Klimt’s motifs to products and tourism advertising. Wolfgang Kos Director, Wien Museum





The Klimt Collection of the Wien Museum Facts and Conclusions

Ursula Storch 1 I employ the designation “Wien Museum” when referring to the institution during the period from 2003 to the present, and when speaking about the history of the museum as a whole from a contemporary perspective. The name “Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien” (Museum of History of the City of Vienna) applies to the period between 1939 and 2003. Since its foundation in 1888 and up until 1939, the museum formed a department of Vienna’s Municipal Collections. All three designations refer to the same institution, as does the shorthand reference to “the museum,” which appears in the appropriate contexts.

Based on the absolute numbers of catalogue

entirety for the very first time in our history as an

entries for works by Gustav Klimt, one must

institution. This single enterprise on the part of

conclude that the Wien Museum is in possession

a museum of cultural history leads into the kind

of the largest Klimt collection in the world. With

of uncharted territory a pure art museum might

roughly four hundred drawings by the iconic

wish to avoid, but at the same time allows us to

artist from late nineteenth-century Vienna—

occupy a very special niche in the context of the

the era of “Vienna 1900”—the museum leaves

various Klimt exhibitions announced for 2012,

all other institutions behind. The collection

while also posing the question: “How much Klimt

further includes eight other original works, all oil

can Vienna endure?”

paintings, at least two of which must be ranked

Our approach brings with it a welcome ancillary

among the most important by this artist. By virtue

effect for the Wien Museum and for Klimt

2 Dedication without document no., inv. no. 1.693.

of their rarity, Klimt’s posters for the Vienna

research in general: for the first time ever, a

Secession are also a key part of his oeuvre.

factual analysis of the collection is being carried

As a museum of cultural history—in German,

out, one likely to result in the clarification of a

a “Universalmuseum”—the Wien Museum is in

range of questions that transcend the exhibition

possession of an extensive series of additional


objects that are related to Gustav Klimt in various ways. These include one of his famous

On the History of the Collection

blue painter’s smocks, portrait photographs


taken by the most celebrated photographers of

How, one might ask, did such a collection come

his time, two busts depicting the artist, his death

together in the first place?

mask, a drawing by Egon Schiele depicting his

The acquisitions can be traced back to the most

colleague in the room where he was laid out

diverse sources, and took place over a period of one

after his death at the Allgemeines Krankenhaus,

hundred and ten years. The following chronological

as well as a series of Klimt souvenirs in whose

sketch is intended to provide insights into the

absence—especially in 2012—the product

genesis of the Klimt collection of the Wien Museum.

palette of Viennese tourism marketing would be

The object with the lowest inventory number


among our Klimt holdings is an original drawing

This so-called Klimt year, which marks the one-

of a design for a gift to be given to ladies

hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of his birth,

attending the Ball of the City of Vienna in 1892;

represents an opportunity to present the Wien Museum’s1 collection of works by Austria’s

it came into the Municipal Collections in 1893 as

internationally most celebrated painter in its

municipal council.2

a donation from the executive committee of the

The next Klimt objects entered the collection in

intended for an architectural archive that was

1901. In 1882–84, the Viennese publisher Gerlach

to be accommodated in the new building of the

& Schenk had published a book of reproductions

municipal museum.8

for artists under the title Allegorien und Embleme

The next addition to the Klimt collection

(Allegories and Emblems); its successor

occurred in 1921, when Vienna became an

publication was entitled Allegorien: Neue Folge

autonomous federal state. In accordance with

1895–1900 (Allegories: New Series 1895–1900).

the laws governing the allocation of state

5 No document no., inv. no. 31.813.

For the first publication, Klimt contributed two

assets, all pictures, plans, views, and books of

oil paintings and five drawings, for the second

relevance to Vienna were transferred from the

6 Cited from Alice Strobl, Gustav Klimt: Die Zeichnungen 1878–1918, Nachtrag, vol. IV (Salzburg, 1989), p. 48.

edition an oil painting and three drawings, which

Niederösterreichisches Landesmuseum (State

are today world-famous. After all of the originals

Museum of Lower Austria) to the Municipal

had been exhibited in the reception rooms of

Collections. Listed at number thirty-six in the

8 Document no. 453/1918, inv. no. 96.032.

Vienna’s Town Hall,3 the complete collection—

inventory of works of fine arts is “Portrait of

9 Document no. 730/1921, inv. no. 45.677.

including the eleven above-mentioned works

a Woman, Gustav Klimt,” which refers to his

by Klimt—was purchased for the Municipal

Portrait of Emilie Flöge, today among the most

10 Document no. 1308/1928, finished drawing: inv. no. 116.210.


celebrated and certainly one of the most precious

Six years later, in 1907, a drawing by Klimt entitled

paintings in the Wien Museum.9

The Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater entered the

In 1928, with the purchase of the collection of

3 Exhibition in the town hall reception rooms of works published by Gerlach & Schenk, exh. cat. Vienna Town Hall (Vienna, 1901). 4 Document no. 313/1901. The Klimt works were inventoried under nos. 25.001, 25.005, 25.007, 25.014, 25.016, 25.021, 25.022, 25.025, 25.215, 25.256, and 26.373.

7 Allocation protocols 138 and 139/1909, inv. nos. 33.907 and 33.908.

11 Hitherto, it was assumed that the work depicted the collector’s wife. Recently, it was proposed that the subject might instead be August Heymann’s sister (cf. Monika Sommer and Alexandra Steiner-Strauss, Gustav Klimt und Wien: Spaziergänge zu den Orten seines Wirkens (Vienna, 2012), pp. 153–59). Since the work’s provenance remains the sole clue to its iconography, the sitter’s identity is still in doubt.

inventory. In a curriculum vitae of 1893, the artist

Albert Berger, Klimt’s famous posters for the first

provides the following information about the

and eighteenth Secession exhibitions, including

work’s inception: “In 1888–89, for a commission

the finished drawing for the former, became part

from the municipal council, I painted a view of

of the museum’s holdings.10

the auditorium of the Old Burgtheater for the

In 1937, another female portrait by Klimt entered

12 Document no. 1200/1937, inv. no. 61.061.

Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien. For this

the collection. This portrait of an unknown

13 Document no. 586/1939, inv. no. 60.466.

composition, which contains approximately 150

woman11 formed part of the collection of Dr.

portraits in watercolor, I received the Kaiser­

August Heymann—a diverse collection of

14 My sincerest thanks in this connection to Marian Bisanz-Prakken, Brigitte Borchhardt-Birbaumer, Tobias G. Natter, and Othmar Rychlik for discussions on this topic.


preis in the amount of 400 ducats at the annual

cultural and historical materials related to

exhibition of 1890 at the Künstlerhaus.”6

Vienna, comprising altogether more than ten

In 1909, two meticulous watercolor death

thousand objects—which was purchased from

portraits entered the collection as a donation

the collector’s daughter.12

from a private Viennese collection.7 Both

Purchased on March 21, 1939, at an auction

subjects were well-known Viennese personalities,

held at the Dorotheum was sales item number

Julius von Lott (1836–1883), chairman of the

558: “Klimt: Sappho, oil sketch.”13 Although an

board of the state railway construction company,

entry in the inventory indicates that the painting

and the art historian Rudolf von Eitelberger

originally belonged to a cleaning woman of

(1817–1885), who was the founding director of the

Klimt’s, its attribution to Klimt has meanwhile

Austrian Museum for Art and Industry, and of

been disputed by a number of experts.14 It may in

the School of Applied Arts originally associated

fact be an early work of Gustav Klimt’s younger

with it.

brother Ernst.

Not long before his death in 1918, the Jugendstil

The earliest drawing in the collection is a signed

architect Otto Wagner approached the museum

(perhaps only later?)15 portrait of a woman that

with the request that it consider purchasing

Klimt executed in 1877, when he was just fifteen

the entire contents of the parlor adjacent to

years old, presumably after a photograph; it was

his studio in order to preserve it for posterity.

purchased in 1940 from a private collection.16

The enclosed typewritten inventory lists ninety-

Two additional sheets, both produced in

three objects, together with prices, with the

connection with the ceiling paintings intended

seventeenth item listed as “Klimt. Female head,

for the University of Vienna, were purchased at an

hand drawing K 250.” After Wagner’s death, this

auction held at the Dorotheum in early November

purchase did in fact take place; the objects were

of 1942.17

15 The signature is the one used by Klimt only beginning in the mid-1890s; the academic nudes produced at the School of Applied Arts in the late 1870s, on the other hand, are signed in a rather conventional manner. 16 Document no. 226/1940, inv. no. 66.054. 17 Document no. 1241/1942, inv. nos. 71.506 and 71.507. The latter was restituted in 2006—for more detail on this incident, see present text below.


18 Assignment protocol 363/1944, inv. nos. 74.930/1-273. 19 Document no. 78/1947, inv. no. 75.403. 20 Document no. 857/1951, inv. nos. 96.482/1-33. 21 Document no. 1/1952, inv. nos. 90.501, 90.502 and 96.730. 22 Document no. 455/1952, inv. nos. 96.936/1-14.

“I bequeath these drawings by Gustav KLIMT to

as Karlsbad—was purchased from a private

the city of Vienna.” In 1944, as a consequence of

collection, along with one further drawing.31

this sentence in the will of Franziska Klimt, the

Another drawing by Klimt entered the collection

widow of Gustav’s brother Georg, 273 drawings

in 1960 as a result of a trade (this is no longer a

entered the collection of the Wien Museum all at

customary practice at the museum). In exchange,

once, making it the institution with the largest

the private vendor received a watercolor by

number of Klimt drawings worldwide.

Wilhelm Kobell.32


In 1947, a study for a portrait in oils of Mäda

Purchased from the Nebehay art dealership

Primavesi (ca. 1912) was sold to the museum by

in 1962 were ten sheets, among them seven

the painting’s sitter.19

additional studies for the Auditorium in the Old

During the 1950s and early 1960s, under the

Burgtheater and Klimt’s design for the grave

direction of Franz Glück, the rate of Klimt

cross for his deceased brother Ernst.33 An

acquisitions intensified: in 1951, for example,

additional sheet was purchased at auction in

thirty-three drawings were purchased from


Viennese private collections,20 and in the

During the following year, there were three

following year, three drawings were acquired

sales of works by Klimt via the Nebehay art

from the Neue Galerie, among them one of

dealership: two drawings,35 a notebook with notes

Klimt’s extremely rare animal studies, which

and preparatory sketches for the Auditorium in

depicts two dogs. Also in 1952, fourteen studies

the Old Burgtheater,36 and finally, an oil sketch

26 Document no. 836/1955, inv. nos. 101.046/1-10 and 101.059/1-10.

for the Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater entered

for the right-hand side of the poster for the

27 Document no. 784/1956, inv. nos. 101.447-101.456.

the collection via the Kende Auction House.

International Exhibition of Music and Theater

In 1954, Klimt’s oil painting Pallas Athena of 1898,

of 1892,37 whose left-hand side was the work

a programmatic image related to the foundation

of Ernst Klimt. Since the published poster is

of the Vienna Secession, was purchased from the

signed simply “Ernst Klimt,” and there exists

29 Dedication without document no., inv. nos. 101.718 and 101.719.

Galerie Neumann for 20,000 schillings; since then,

no definitive documentation for Gustav Klimt’s

30 Document no. 141/1958, inv. no. 101.784.

it has been one of the most requested objects for

authorship, occasional doubts still remain about

exhibitions on the theme of Vienna around 1900.

this attribution.38

23 Document no. 692/1954, inv. no. 100.686. 24 Document no. 797/1954, inv. no. 115.143. 25 Document no. 484/1955, inv. nos. 105.306/1-3. These drawings may have been executed by Franz Matsch as studies for a painting of the Burgtheater; conceived as a pendant to Gustav Klimt’s Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater, the painting shows the stage from the auditorium. Alice Strobl incorporated them into the catalogue raisonné of Klimt’s drawings, while Marian BisanzPrakken has reinforced existing doubts about Klimt’s authorship.

28 Document no. 810/1957, inv. nos. 101.692-101.694.




31 Document no. 302/1958, inv. no. 101.903.

In 1955, another drawing entered the museum

Added to the collection in 1965 was a signed

collection as part of the estate of the art critic

pastel by Klimt, a portrait of Marie Moll, which

32 Document no. 652/1960, inv. no. 114.949.

Arthur Roessler, acquired by the museum in

was purchased from a Canadian private

return for a lifetime annuity for Roessler and his


wife, Ida.

The next purchase of an original work by Klimt

33 Document no. 769/1962, inv. nos. 115.855, 115.856/1-7, 115.857 and 115.858.


34 Document no. 797/1962, inv. no. 115.888.

Also acquired in 1955 at the Dorotheum auction

for the collection of the Wien Museum came

house were three additional pencil studies for

more than twenty years later, in the form of a

35 Document no. 350/1963, inv. nos. 115.982 and 115.983.

the Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater, along

drawing for the university painting Jurisprudence,

with twenty drawings from Viennese private

acquired from a private collection.40 In 1988

collections in two batches.26

came the final purchase of a Klimt drawing, a

37 Document no. 169/1963, inv. no. 115.911.

In 1956, Helene Donner, Klimt’s niece, offered the

study for the university painting Medicine, whose

museum thirty-five drawings, of which ten were

availability for purchase from an art dealership

38 In this context as well, my sincerest thanks to Marian Bisanz-Prakken, Brigitte Borchhardt-Birbaumer, Tobias G. Natter, and Othmar Rychlik for their expertise.

ultimately purchased.27

was brought to the museum’s attention by the

In 1957, the museum selected three additional

Agency of Federal Monuments.41

drawings out of an extensive offering from a

At this point, it should be mentioned briefly that

Parisian private collection. Two additional

on the whole, the sums paid by the museum for

finished drawings by Klimt for issue three of the

the acquisition of Klimt drawings have been

36 Document no. 891/1963, inv. no. 116.386.

39 Document no. 729/1965, inv. no. 133.369. 40 Document no. 1734/1986, inv. no. 186.207.



Vienna Secession’s journal Ver Sacrum, published

entirely consistent with typical art market prices,

41 Document no. 1051/1988, inv. no. 186.269.

in 1898, were acquired as a donation from a source

and have even, in some cases, been considerably

42 This assessment is based on the prices assembled by Alice Strobl in Strobl, Klimt, 1989, pp. 226–28.

that, regrettably, can no longer be identified.

lower than the norm.42

In 1958, a Klimt watercolor—a study for the

A special case with regard to our Klimt holdings

theater curtain in Karlovy Vary, then known

is represented by the ceiling paintings of




The only known photograph of Gustav Klimt’s painting Silence (upper right in the light frame)

the Hermesvilla, used by the Wien Museum

City of Vienna in 1999, a drawing by Klimt related

beginning in 1976 as an exhibition venue. In

to the university painting Medicine that had been

1885, succeeding the recently deceased Hans

auctioned at the Dorotheum in November of 1942

Makart, the Künstler-Compagnie—which is to

was restored to the heirs of Heinrich Rieger, in

say Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst, and Franz

whose collection the sheet had originally been

Matsch—completed the painting of the cavetti in

found.47 To date, it has proven impossible to

the bedroom of Empress Elizabeth after designs

restore a highly prominent second sheet—the

46 Alfred Weidinger et al., “Kommentiertes Gesamtverzeichnis des malerischen Werks,” in Alfred Weidinger, ed., Gustav Klimt (Munich et al., 2007), p. 281.

by Julius Victor Berger. They were able to realize

transfer drawing for the university painting

47 Document no. 31/2006.

the ceiling paintings in the adjacent empress’s

Philosophy, which was sold during the same

salon according to their own designs. They

auction—to its rightful owners, who have yet to

chose to depict Spring, for which Gustav Klimt

be identified. Needless to say, the Wien Museum

contributed the figure of Diana above a garland

is continuing to search for the rightful owners

of flowers borne by putti. Due to severe damage

and would appreciate any helpful information in

to the building during World War II, unfortunately,

this regard.

little remains of this original substance.

Following a resolution passed by the Municipal


Over the past two decades, the Klimt collection

Council on February 3, 1983, the Historisches

of the Wien Museum has not only been

Museum relinquished seven Klimt drawings,

augmented—there have also been losses of

along with a series of Secession posters (i.e.

various kinds. The Historisches Museum der

duplicates) to the New York art dealer Serge

Stadt Wien was the owner—if only temporarily—

Sabarsky, in compensation for which the

of two oil paintings, namely the Portrait of Mäda

museum received an important drawing by

Primavesi (ca. 1912) and Birch Trees (1903). The


portrait was purchased at an auction at the

Mentioned now for the sake of completeness is

Dorotheum in 1941, and was restored in 1952

an additional Klimt painting, which, although

to the heirs of Jenny Steiner. It now hangs in

theoretically the property of the Wien Museum,

the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

has regrettably never actually been in our

Birch Trees, a painting from the Bloch-Bauer

possession. This symbolist painting, entitled

collection, was purchased in 1942 by a law firm

Silence, was exhibited in 1898 at the second

and transferred to the Österreichische Galerie

Secession exhibition.49 It was purchased by

in 1948; in 2006, the painting was restored to its

Otto Wagner, who left it to his heirs. In 1945, the

rightful inheritors.

apartment of his daughter Christine was seized




In 2006, as a consequence of the passage of laws

and re-leased, along with all of its furnishings and

governing the restitution of art adopted by the

inventories. Since the apartment also contained

43 Hermesvilla, 2nd rev. ed. (Vienna, 1986), pp. 16–21. 44 Document no. 101/1941, inv. no. 69.204. 45 Document no. 1349/1942, inv. no. 71.500.

48 Document no. 1242/1982. The relinquished sheets were catalogued as inv. nos. 74.930/181, 194, 200, 240, 242, 262, and 267. 49 Cf. the catalogue to the second Secession exhibition (Vienna, 1898), no. 73.


a number of items of furniture based on designs

We begin with an overview of our own exhibitions

by Otto Wagner, which were regarded as having

at which Klimt objects were displayed. In 1964, the

cultural and historic value for Vienna, Wagner’s

Office for Culture of the City of Vienna initiated

daughter launched a campaign in 1947—with

an exhibition on the theme of “Vienna 1900,”

the support of the Historisches Museum—to

which took place simultaneously at four different

have them, along with the remaining inventory,

venues in Vienna. Presented in what was then the

restored to her. In the course of investigations,

Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien were prints,

a joint memorandum was drawn up on December

books, and posters. Shown in this exhibition from

16, 1948, in which Wagner’s daughter registered

the museum’s own holdings, accordingly, were

the following statement: “Furthermore, I bestow

posters for the first and eighteenth Secession

upon the Municipal Collections (in the event that

exhibition, as well as issues of Ver Sacrum

I resume possession of the furnishings which

containing illustrations by Klimt.54

55 Wiener Stilkunst um 1900. Zeichnungen und Aquarelle im Besitz des Historischen Museums der Stadt Wien, exh. cat., sixty-first special exhibition of the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 1979).

belong to and were found in the apartment)

In summer of 1979, works by Klimt made their

the above-mentioned Klimt painting, ‘Silence,’

first major appearance in the exhibition Wiener

as well as other objects to be agreed upon in

Stilkunst um 1900: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle im

consultation with the direction of the Municipal

Besitz des Historischen Museums der Stadt Wien,

56 Heidemarie Uhl, “‘Wien um 1900’— das making of eines Gedächtnisortes,” in Monika Sommer et al., eds., Imaging Vienna: Innensichten, Außensichten, Stadterzählungen (Vienna, 2006), p. 49.

Collections.” A photograph that accompanies

which took place in the Hermesvilla. Twenty-

the file documents the painting, shown hanging

eight drawings by Klimt were presented, mainly

on the wall of the apartment; unfortunately

collection highlights.55 Although William M.

57 Gustav Klimt, Zeichnungen aus amerikanischem Privatbesitz ausgewählt von Serge Sabarsky und aus Beständen des Historischen Museums der Stadt Wien, exh. cat., 89th special exhibition of the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 1984).

its appearance in the image is very dark.

Johnston’s The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and

Correspondence with Wagner’s daughter breaks

Social History, 1848–1938 had appeared already

off in January of 1952. To date, nothing is known

in German in 1974 as Österreichische Kultur-

about the painting’s present whereabouts; in

und Geistesgeschichte: Gesellschaft und Ideen

1950, it was entered into a typed note at the

im Donauraum 1848 bis 1938, thereby effecting

museum with the heading Otto Wagner: list of

the first step in the rediscovery of the cultural

missing items; in the literature, it is regarded as

history of Vienna around the turn of the twentieth

being lost as of 1898, or 1903 (Weidinger).

century, it was only the translation into German

50 Document no. 917/1947, 1997/1948, 1143/1951. 51 Document no. 1997/1948. 52 Fritz Novotny and Johannes Dobai, Gustav Klimt (Salzburg, 1967), p. 308 (without a work no.; erroneously assigned to the eighteenth Secession exhibition); Weidinger et al., “Kommentiertes Gesamtverzeichnis,” in Weidinger, ed., Klimt, 2007, no. 129. 53 Cf. Schausammlung Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 1984), pp. 294–95. 54 Wien um 1900, exh. cat. Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 1964), no. 309, no. 324, nos. 342–43.

58 Document no. 1092/1983.




of Carl E. Schorske’s Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: The Utilization of the Collection

Politics and Culture (1980), which came out in 1982 as Wien, Geist und Gesellschaft im Fin de


But what should a museum actually do with such

Siècle, that gave momentum to the international

a collection?

wave of enthusiasm for “Vienna 1900.”56 Taking

Over the past decade, oil paintings such as the

place in 1984 was the sole exhibition dedicated

Portrait of Emilie Flöge, Pallas Athena, and Love

entirely to Klimt in the Historisches Museum,

have been displayed primarily as parts of the

organized in conjunction with New York art dealer

permanent collection of the Wien Museum.53 To

Serge Sabarsky and featuring drawings from

begin with, the museum suffers from an acute

American private collections alongside those

shortage of space, which makes it virtually

from the museum’s own collection.57 On view

impossible to present more than three paintings

on this occasion were fifty drawings from our

by any one artist on a permanent basis. In

holdings. Attendance numbers of around 45,000

addition, the drawings cannot be displayed for

contributed decisively to the decision to send

extended periods of time for reasons related to

the exhibition on tour. The works traveled to the

their conservation. Still, portions of the collection

Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover, then to the

have been regularly drawn upon for exhibitions,

Villa Stuck in Munich, before being hosted in the

if never in their entirety. Relevant in this context

spring of 1985 at the Neue Galerie in Linz.58

are both in-house exhibitions as well as those

Taking place that same year in the Künstlerhaus

organized by other institutions for which works

was the legendary exhibition Dream and Reality:

from the museum’s collection have been made

Vienna 1870–1930, which was organized and

available as loans.

conceptualized by the Historisches Museum der

View of the exhibition Vienna 1900 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1986), with the paintings Pallas Athena and Portrait of Emilie Flöge from the Wien Museum

Stadt Wien. This show is still regarded in Vienna

drawing by Klimt was among the one hundred

as a high point among exhibitions devoted to

selected sheets included in the exhibition

the city, and with more than 622,000 visitors, its

Skizzen, Studien, Meisterblätter: Wiener Graphik

59 Traum und Wirklichkeit: Wien 1870–1930, exh. cat., 95th special exhibition of the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 1985).

attendance figures have never been surpassed.

aus fünf Jahrhunderten,62 and in 2003, his

60 Uhl, “Wien um 1900,” 2006, p. 63.

Assembled here was the crème de la crème in

Secession posters were part of the exhibition

relation to the theme of “Vienna 1900”; both the

Kraftflächen: Wiener Plakatkunst um 1900. The

museums and private collectors from Austria and

following year, the drawing from the estate of

abroad contributed exceptionally high-quality

Arthur Roessler, a standing female nude, was

loan objects. Alongside numerous objects from

exhibited as part of Schiele & Roessler: Der

its own collection, the Historisches Museum

Künstler und sein Förderer,64 and in 2008–09, the

contributed seven of its eight Klimt oil paintings,

Portrait of Emilie Flöge was the central object of

among them, of course, the Portrait of Emilie

the exhibition Glanzstücke: Emilie Flöge und der

Flöge and Pallas Athena, the Auditorium in the

Schmuck der Wiener Werkstätte.



Old Burgtheater, two of his drawings, and the uncensored version of the poster for the first

Aside from a significant number of Klimt objects

Secession exhibition. Emboldened by this

shown in exhibitions organized by the museum in

show’s tremendous success, others organized

the years between 1979 and 1989, this institution

related exhibitions in subsequent years, among

seems to have displayed relatively limited

them Vienne 1880–1938: L’Apocalypse Joyeuse at

interest in these particular holdings. At the same

the Centre Pompidou in Paris,60 and Vienna 1900:

time, a survey of the loan requests and contracts

Art, Architecture & Design at New York’s Museum

for objects by Klimt make it clear that the

of Modern Art.

Klimt collection of the Wien Museum has been

In 1988–89, with the exhibition Emilie Flöge und

well-known and in considerable demand both

Gustav Klimt: Doppelporträt in Ideallandschaft,

nationally and internationally.66

mounted in the Hermesvilla, the Historisches

Depending upon the specific circumstances,

Museum der Stadt Wien once more showed a

the institution known today as the Wien

selection of its Klimt holdings, namely two oil

Museum has always adopted a favorable

paintings (again including, needless to say, the

attitude toward requests for loans of items

Portrait of Emilie Flöge), two posters, and five

from the Klimt collection. It loaned objects to


the Klimt memorial exhibitions that took place

Over the past fifteen years, only individual Klimt

at the Secession as early as 1928 and 1943, for

objects have been shown in exhibitions of the

example. The Klimt exhibitions taking place in the

Wien Museum. In 1996, for example, a single

Albertina in 1962 and 1968 also included works


61 Emilie Flöge und Gustav Klimt: Doppelporträt in Ideallandschaft, exh. cat., 112th special exhibition of the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 1988). 62 Skizzen, Studien, Meisterblätter: Wiener Graphik aus fünf Jahrhunderten, exh. cat., 216th special exhibition of the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 1996), pp. 65–66. 63 Kraftflächen: Wiener Plakatkunst um 1900, exh. cat., 303th special exhibition of the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Vienna, 2003), pp. 43–47. 64 Schiele & Roessler: Der Künstler und sein Förderer: Kunst und Networking im frühen 20. Jahrhundert, exh. cat. Wien Museum (Ostfildern, 2004), p. 151. 65 Glanzstücke: Emilie Flöge und der Schmuck der Wiener Werkstätte, exh. cat. Wien Museum (Stuttgart, 2008). 66 Since not all documents pertaining to loans have been archived over the past decades, we must assume that the following entries are representative of tendencies, while the corrected numbers would have to be somewhat higher.


Poster from the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne with motif Portrait of Emilie Flöge, 2011

Klimt collection of the Wien Museum on the

five loan requests since 1980. In the category of

87 Document no. 2377/1995.

international exhibition stage. The above list

works on paper, unsurprisingly, are the frequently

88 Document no. 481/2002.

excludes loans of individual works or small

published trio of finished drawings for Klimt’s

89 Document no. 486/2002.

ensembles of objects, along with the countless

contribution to the pattern book Allegorien: Neue

90 Document no. 694/2001.

loan requests that had to be turned down for a

Folge, namely Tragedy, Sculpture, and Junius, with

variety of reasons. In this category are a number

twenty-five to thirty loan requests each. Since

of solicitations involving plans to base entire

1980, approximately twenty requests each were

Klimt exhibitions on the holdings of the Wien

received for the two finished drawings for the Ver

Museum, most of them rejected for reasons of

Sacrum illustrations Envy and Nuda Veritas, as

conservation: for example, plans for an exhibition

well as for the Gorgons, a study for the Beethoven

of roughly eighty Klimt drawings, which would


have toured four major U.S. museums in the late 1990s,87 an exhibition envisioned for the

The Collection in the Commemorative Year of

Warsaw Historical Museum for 2002,88 one for


the Athens Concert Hall, also for 2002, and a 89

Klimt exhibition envisioned for the Museo de arte

This factual analysis makes clear that the Klimt

moderno de Bogota in 2003.

collection of the Wien Museum has—in particular


This factually oriented inventory continues

since the 1980s—played an essential role in

now with a brief mention of the most frequently

the international exhibition merry-go-round on

requested Klimt objects in the Wien Museum

the theme of “Vienna 1900.” To recapitulate: the

since 1980—which is not to suggest that all of

museum’s sole exhibition devoted exclusively to

the objects mentioned were actually loaned.

Gustav Klimt took place in 1984, which is to say,

On the contrary: most of these requests had to

nearly thirty years ago. During the same period,

be refused, mainly for reasons of conservation.

the Wien Museum accommodated requests for

With about forty requests over the past thirty

nearly eight hundred loans of works by Klimt.

years, the oil painting Pallas Athena ranks at

These circumstances may help to explain the

the very top. The Portrait of Emilie Flöge follows,

museum’s decision to present its Klimt collection

with around thirty requests, although it is not

on its own premises during this commemorative

exactly a secret that this painting—one of the

year. Finally, the public has the right to see these

Wien Museum’s most precious and celebrated

holdings in their entirety for what may be the

paintings—is permitted to leave the premises

only time in the museum’s history—including

only on the most exceptional occasions. In third

the 131 Klimt works that have been purchased

place is the painting Love, with around twenty-

with public funds since 1901 and that, together 19

91 Arthur Roessler, In memoriam Gustav Klimt (Vienna, 1926), unpaginated. 92 Inv. no. 74.930/176. 93 Inv. no. 74.930/230. 94 Ludwig Hevesi, “Haus Wärndorfer,” in idem, Altkunst–Neukunst: Wien 1894–1908 (Vienna, 1909), p. 223.

with other endowed works, have now been

inscription “longer,”92 or a sketch for a painting

researched, administered, and subjected to

bears the color notation “WEISS,” “SCHWARZ,”

conservation measures thanks to public support

“GRAU,” for future reference.93 Klimt’s working

from taxpayers.

method, his struggle to arrive at the final

Needless to say, all of our Klimt oil paintings will

design, can only be understood in relation to the

be on display on this occasion. To show all of the

enormous wealth of detailed studies and series

approximately four hundred drawings without

of sketches to which Arthur Roessler refers

making any evaluative selection among them

above. This process of understanding, finally,

represents a relatively unconventional approach,

also involves comprehending that each drawing,

but one that allows viewers to arrive at insights

even one by an exceptionally gifted artist,

that could not be reached in the context of other

cannot claim to be a work of art having timeless

Viennese Klimt exhibitions being held this year.

value—nor was that intended. The fact that only

The majority of the drawings are either rapidly

a very few Klimt drawings are signed constitutes

executed sketches, essentially shorthand

additional and unmistakable testimony to the

versions of ideas that occurred to Klimt, or they

value he personally attached to these works. The

belong to extensive series of study sheets for oil

fact that even studies, which the artist probably

paintings; Klimt used such studies as a means to

had no intention of preserving, fetch impressive

try out details, reject them, seek out alternative

prices on the art market is a circumstance whose

solutions, and arrive at new variants. Given the

irrationality is worth discussing—particularly in

large number of drawings, it is hardly surprising

view of the large number of known drawings and

that notable differences of quality are evident.

their qualitative differences.

Not all of these works, however, were meant to be

A universal museum like the Wien Museum,

preserved for posterity. Klimt himself attributed

whose focus is Viennese cultural history in its

little value to most of them. A number of

entirety, is also in a position to pose far-reaching

contemporaries left observations of his treatment

questions about Gustav Klimt and Vienna. In

of the drawings, among them the art critic

the framework of this exhibition, Klimt’s image

Arthur Roessler: “I myself saw stacks of study

of women is subjected to critical examination,

sheets taller than a man in Klimt’s workshop,

and the market value of his works is explored

among them dozens which treated the same

carefully, as is the question of his long-term

motif, a hand, a shoulder, a rump, a pair of legs,

impact on Vienna—in both aesthetic and

a standing or reclining figure, the contrapuntal

economic terms.

employment or entanglement of two bodies, or

To be reexamined in this context, for example, is

just a gesticulation, a gentle gesture; the same

the verdict of art critic Ludwig Hevesi, who waxed

thing many times, but always seen anew and

enthusiastic in 1905 about the Vienna of his time

repeated. Klimt valued this wealth of studies

on the occasion of an invitation to visit the villa

as assiduously as he did his penetrating works

of the industrialist Fritz Waerndorfer, which was

after nature, solely as a means to an end, and

decorated by Charles Rennie Macintosh and the

he destroyed thousands of them once they had

Wiener Werkstätte: “There is a new poetry in the

served their purpose, or if they failed to embody

world, one hitherto undreamt. An austere beauty,

the most extreme expressiveness with the most

after all of the sweetness of the nineteenth

sparing evocation of technique.” Visitors to the 2012 Klimt exhibition in the Wien

century, whose own celebrity will be for having

Museum will enjoy a unique opportunity to watch

invented saccharin. How remarkable that Vienna,

the artist over his shoulder, so to speak, to catch

of all places, should be the capital city of this

him in the creative act, to observe his artistic

new austerity, arrived at with such seriousness,

search for the most suitable form, the most

emanating from such masculine nerves,

fitting mode of expression. Especially illuminating

exercising such a novel charm. Vienna is the city

in this context are the few drawings on which a

of Gustav Klimt, whose paintings are extra dry—

section of a female back, for example, bears the

like champagne for men.”94



concocted the best bonbons, and even for having

Highlights and Rarities The Klimt Drawings of the Wien Museum

Marian Bisanz-Prakken 1 Depicted here according to a note is “Frau Taglang.” 2 Handwritten record by Hermine Klimt about the life of Gustav Klimt, cited from Christian M. Nebehay, Gustav Klimt: Dokumentation (Vienna, 1969), p. 60. For additional examples of these very early, photographically precise portraits, cf. Alice Strobl, Gustav Klimt: Die Zeichnungen 1878–1903, vol. I (Salzburg, 1980), cat. rais. nos. 26–30; idem, Gustav Klimt: Die Zeichnungen 1878–1918, Nachtrag, vol. IV (Salzburg, 1989), cat. rais. nos. 3184–3168. The subject of no. 3184, a portrait of the fifteen-year-old Paula Taglang, which was executed from a photograph “around 1876” (according to a note by Georg Klimt), was, presumably, the daughter of the subject of the oval portrait cited above. 3 Albert Ilg in Martin Gerlach, ed., Allegorien und Embleme (Vienna, 1882), vol. I, p. 1.


Given their variety, it is far from easy to offer a

and 1880 emphasize anatomical details through

summary characterization of the approximately

subtle effects of light and dark and incisive

four hundred drawings by Gustav Klimt held in

contour lines. Only much later did Klimt devote

the Wien Museum. Major foci of the collection

himself primarily to the female nude.

include outstanding works of Historicism,

A key position in Klimt’s early graphic production

Symbolism, and early Secessionism, but present

is assumed by the five pictorial compositions

as well are remarkable works and high points

he produced between 1881 and 1884, along

among the numerous sheets from the Golden

with two painted works, as contributions

Style period and the late years. Without any

to a series of reproductions Allegorien und

pretense to completeness, the following overview

Embleme (Allegories and Emblems), edited

looks at a number of highlights and some virtually

by Martin Gerlach. Very much in the spirit

unknown aspects of the collection, too.

of Historicism, the German and Austrian

The earliest—and to date unpublished—drawing

artists who participated in this project were

from the Klimt Collection of the Wien Museum

to dedicate themselves to “the most elevated,

is an oval portrait, given a photolike finish, of a

the most elemental, and hence most eternally

woman in middle age (cat. no. 1.1).1 There can

valid concepts,” i.e. those which “all epochs

be no doubt that the signature and the date of

and schools have practiced for centuries.”3

1877 were added by the artist himself, albeit

This represented a welcome opportunity for

at a later point in time—in all likelihood in the

the young Gustav to demonstrate his abilities

1890s. This work—Klimt’s earliest dated work

publicly; in these autonomous works, he was able

according to the current research—is among

to display his facility as a draftsman in a range

the likenesses that the budding artist, working

of techniques. In the treatment of the individual

from photographs, produced in his free time

scenes as well, he enjoyed greater leeway than

after being admitted to the School of Applied

in the framework of the decorative paintings

Arts (1876); these were works that met with the

he executed jointly with Franz Matsch and his

“fullest satisfaction of their commissioners,”

brother Ernst Klimt—beginning in 1880, this trio

and his payment for such sheets was “5 guilders

formed the successful “Künstler-Compagnie”

each.”2 Originally, Klimt was to have become

(Artists’ Company).

a drawing instructor, but after two years, he

Despite their obvious dependence on the

changed his main subject to decorative painting.

art of the past, in particular the Italian High

Even very early on, he was an outstanding

Renaissance, Klimt’s contributions to Allegorien

draftsman: the nudes he produced in class after

und Embleme nonetheless betray an independent,

adult male models and adolescents between 1878

finely differentiated vocabulary of forms and

Gustav Klimt Fairy Tale, 1884 Cat. no. 2.18

lines. In The Realms of Nature (1882; cat. no. 2.2),

this work—previously dated 1882—is consistent

for example, the lord of the animal realm—

with the decorations for the theater in Karlovy

enthroned above the representatives of the plant

Vary (1884–85). Marked by a sharp realism, on

and mineral kingdoms, who sit devotedly feet

the other hand, are two watercolors depicting

at his feet—is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s

the art historian Rudolf von Eitelberger (1885),

ignudi in the Sistine Chapel. More present to

and railway pioneer Julius von Lott (1883) on

the eye, however, is the play of sensitive contour

their death beds—Klimt’s earliest postmortem

lines, refined surface effects, and painstakingly

portraits (cat. nos. 8.1 and 8.2). These works,

coordinated gestures. In the luxuriantly

which have the effect of pendants, may have

decorated frame of the allegory Opera (1883;

been executed around the same time. While

cat. no. 2.16), on the other hand, the music-

Klimt executed the death portrait of Rudolf von

making and eagerly climbing amorettes seem

Eitelberger, which is dated 1885, immediately

more “alive” than the figures of the main

after the subject’s demise, the undated likeness

composition. Klimt planned out the numerous

of Julius von Lott may have been based on a

putti and amorettes that often populate his

deathbed photograph made available by the

historic scenes by means of spontaneously executed linear sketches . The most modern

client.4 Shortly before his death, Rudolf von Eitelberger

allegory of the series is the theatrical scene Fairy

played an important mediating role in relation

Tale (1884; cat. no. 2.18). Klimt stages the fervent

to the largest Viennese commission received by

Oriental storyteller and the exotic nude girl who

the Künstler-Compagnie, the ceiling decorations

nestles up to him as a monumentally contrasting

for the Imperial Kaiserstiege (imperial staircase)

pair. This figure, with her luxuriant, seductively

of the Burgtheater (1886–88), the high point of

displayed form, is the first female nude in his

the successful trio’s career. The museum owns

oeuvre to exercise an unmistakably erotic effect.

a number of detailed studies by Gustav Klimt for

The visionary backdrop with its schematic figural

this project, among them the classically stringent

scenes anticipates Symbolism: in Philosophy

male nude for the The Wagons of Thespis

(1900–07) as well, “real” and imaginary spatial

(cat. no. 3.20). In 1888–89, immediately after

strata interpenetrate.

completion of the Burgtheater paintings, Klimt

A rare watercolor design for a theater curtain,

executed a gouache showing the auditorium

its purpose unknown, is characterized by its

in the old Burgtheater prior to the building’s

rococo-like, brilliant colorism (cat. no. 3.12).

demolition—and commissioned by the city of

In view of the extremely free manner of paint

Vienna (cat. no. 4.1). This bravura piece, which

application, clearly influenced by Hans Makart,

succeeds in capturing a unique moment by

4 On this theme, see Marian BisanzPrakken, “Im Antlitz des Todes: Gustav Klimts ‘Alter Mann auf dem Totenbett,’ ein Porträt Hermann Flöges?,” Belvedere 2, 1 (1996), pp. 20–39.


Gustav Klimt Final drawing for a ladies’ gift for the Ball of the City of Vienna, 1892 Cat. no. 3.42

5 On the decisive influence on this work of the Symbolism of Fernand Khnopff and Jan Toorop, see Marian Bisanz-Prakken, “Gustav Klimt und die ‘Stilkunst’ Jan Toorops,” Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Galerie (Klimt-Studien) 22/33, 66–67 (1978–79), pp. 150–53.

presenting the likenesses of some one hundred

executed in charcoal with subtle gold accents,

and fifty individuals from public life in seemingly

occupy a singular position within Klimt’s oeuvre

or pseudo casual attitudes, is as singular within

and within Viennese Modernism. In Junius, the

Klimt’s oeuvre as is the realistic rendering of

profile head of a Roman girl with golden hair

the fully illuminated interior space. Dimensions,

ornaments are flanked by two delicate ancillary

plans, and sketches were entered into a

figures. This composition, characterized by

notebook—which is exhibited here for the first

floral elements and youth symbolism, already

time (cat. no. 4.28). In a lively rhythm of light and

anticipates the “Sacred Spring” of the Secession,

dark, he executed sketches on location showing

founded a year later. Sculpture embodies a

the rows of spectators seated in the boxes and

refined and deliberate confusion between

balconies; wall plans and architectural details are

older and newer art, between cool material and

rendered with energetic parallel hatching lines.

animate substance. Effectively deployed empty

Appearing in early 1892, the year in whose

spaces and carefully calculated fragmentation

course Klimt lost both his father Ernst Sr. and

give it the stamp of modern character—for

his brother Ernst, was a booklet designed as a

instance with the palpably close woman’s head in

gift for ladies attending the Ball of the City of

the foreground, which is cut off by the edge of the

Vienna and containing illustrations by various

picture, heralding modern art, and emphatically

artists—among them Gustav and Ernst Klimt. In

demarcated from the timeless nudity of the main

a small, subtle work in India ink, Klimt depicts the

figure, the latter displayed frontally. With Tragedy,

Japanese figural pair from Gilbert and Sullivan’s

produced during the founding year of the Vienna

opera The Mikado with their, stylized, patterned

Secession (1897), Klimt set the standards for his

kimonos, masklike faces, and frozen gestures;

new monumental style. The forceful frontality of

early Symbolism and modern Japonisme enter

the mesmerizing principal figure and the profile

here into a novel union (cat. no. 3.42).

positioning of the resigned ancillary figures are

After several years of reclusiveness and an

stringently coordinated with one another. The

inner reorientation, Klimt demonstratively

composition is shaped by balanced decorative

declared his commitment to Symbolism through

contrasts between dark and light, between stasis

his contributions to Allegorien: Neue Folge

and mobility, and between empty expanses and

(Allegories: New Series). The famous original for

finely worked linear passages. A new role is

this publication, the oil painting Love (1895;

played by the magic of gestures which, as though

cat. no. 2.19) and the highly polished drawings

directed by a secret power, are integrated into

Junius (1896; cat. no. 2.20), Sculpture (1896;

the tectonics of their surroundings.5

cat. no. 2.22), and Tragedy (1897; cat. no. 2.24), 24

Gustav Klimt Tragedy, 1897 Cat. no. 2.24

As the Secession’s first president, Klimt—

executed with fine blue and red chalk lines, in

together with his like-minded colleagues—

which a special role is played by the enigmatic

propagated the new ideals through graphic

shimmer of the long, downward flowing hair

works executed in the fields of book and poster

(cat. no. 7.2). Another drawing, dated 1897, holds

art. In Klimt’s original design for the poster of

a particular position within Klimt’s achievement:

the first Secession exhibition (March–May 1898),

it features a design for the façade of the Secession

the Greek hero Theseus delivers the death blow

exhibition building (cat. no. 5.5). On both sides of

to the Minotaur (symbol of the “indifferentism”

the entrance, flanked by nude figures, are cursory

of the Viennese public; cat. no. 5.1). Observing

indications of wall decorations. The façade is

the scene is Pallas Athena, tutelary goddess

crowned with the words “Ver Sacrum”—which

of the young association. The genitalia of the

later became the title of the association’s

muscular, nude male figure are just covered by a

epochal journal. There is little doubt that Joseph

fig leaf; nonetheless, the censorship authorities

Maria Olbrich, the architect of the Secession

demanded that this passage be concealed by a

Building, drew inspiration from Klimt’s ideas.

tree trunk in the final version. The ink drawings

During the first, eventful year of the Secession,

Nuda Veritas and Envy, executed in narrow

Klimt was mainly preoccupied with work on the

vertical formats inspired by Japanese models,

three university paintings. In 1894, he and Franz

were reproduced in 1898 in the Secession journal

Matsch were commissioned by the education

Ver Sacrum (cat. nos. 5.11, 5.10). Telling here is

ministry to decorate the ceiling of the university

the contrast between the luminous nude frontal

assembly hall with allegories of the sciences;

figure, whose mirror reflects the light of truth,

Klimt was assigned the subjects philosophy,

and the black garments and emaciated face of

medicine, and jurisprudence. In the wake of his

the staring figure, which serves as an allegory for

turn toward Symbolism, however, he found it

the powers that menace true art.

impossible to approach these existential themes

But the Secession artists did not convey their

in the spirit of a positivist faith in progress. In

new program solely through an assertive

the end, his images were rejected—all three

allegorical pictorial idiom, but also through their

were deemed fatalistic and repellent. But for

oft-articulated avowal of a new “spiritual art,” a

Klimt as a painter and a draftsman, this intensive


deeply concealed “world of the artist.” On many

confrontation with the great questions of life,

occasions, Klimt varied the Symbolist type of

all of which would concern him throughout his

the idealized, introverted female profile figure.

career as a whole, was of decisive importance.

An outstanding example is his profile drawing of

In the context of preparations for Philosophy,

a girl bending forward with closed eyes (1898),

the first monumental painting, which was shown


6 On the expression “Indifferentismus” (indifferentism), see Carl Moll, “Osterstimmung im Wiener Kunstleben,” Osterbeilage der Wiener Allgemeinen Zeitung (1898). 7 On this topic, Marian Bisanz-Prakken, Heiliger Frühling: Gustav Klimt und die Anfänge der Wiener Secession (Vienna and Munich, 1999), pp. 16–18.


Gustav Klimt Design for the building of the Vienna Secession, 1898 Cat. no. 5.5

8 On the fundamental conditions of human life in the graphic works of Klimt, Marian Bisanz-Prakken, “Gustav Klimt’s Drawings,” in Colin B. Bailey, ed., Gustav Klimt: Modernism in the Making, exh. cat. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Ottawa, 2001), p. 150.


at the Secession in 1900, the transfer drawing

and the figure of a father, seen from the back in

executed in 1899 represents a decisive moment

the act of sheltering his family, seems completely

(cat. no. 6.3). Appearing now in place of the

immersed in himself.

diffusely scattered pictorial elements of the

In Medicine, the counterpart to Philosophy, Klimt

previous oil sketch (1897–98) is a cycle of “coming

extends these newly discovered possibilities.

into existence, becoming fertile, and perishing”

Depicted in the densely superimposed yet

taking the form of a fortuitous extract from a

simultaneously isolated figures are all of the

vertical stream of humanity which is projected

nuances of bodily and spiritual suffering. None,

out into the universe. Here, the “world riddle” is

however, represent situations of personal

an oversized sphinx under whose weight the main

suffering, but instead the fundamental conditions

allegorical figure, a thinker from Greek antiquity,

of the life cycle from birth until death; the

seems almost to be crushed. In the final painting,

movements and gestures of the somnambulant

this still-Historicist figure is supplanted by

figures seem to be guided by an invisible hand.

“Knowledge”—a mysterious, frontal woman’s

Correspondingly wide-ranging and diverse are

head with wide-open eyes and closed lips.

the preparatory works in the field of drawing. The

In the context of the university paintings, the

studies of the recumbent, erotically curvaceous

nude human figure is assigned a fundamentally

model for the lascivious main figure hovering

new function: a state of imperfect and even ugly

isolated from the throng seems just as weightless

nakedness becomes the elementary condition

as the drawings of the other figures, all depicted

of a humanity that is exposed to an uncertain

slightly from below: athletic men, dreamy

fate. Through intensive studies of the poses

women, infants, haggard adolescents, or bent

and gestures of each individual figure, Klimt

and crooked old men and women. Most of the

repeatedly explored essential aspects of certain

softly illuminated figures are modeled by means

spiritual moods or life situations.8 He sets the

of detached, accentuated parallel hatching lines,

models who pose for him—men and women, old

at times with the addition of white highlights.

people and children—in essentially vulnerable

Klimt departed radically from this illusion of

states on the pale paper surface, allowing

plasticity and spatiality in his Beethoven Frieze

them to internalize a feeling of directionless

(1901–02), painted in the Secession Building as a

floating; in this way, the contour lines shape the

decoration for the epochal Beethoven exhibition

psychological boundaries between the inner

(April–July 1902). Even in the figural studies, he is

life of the human individual and the surrounding

already oriented toward the stringent geometry

emptiness. An elderly reclining man, for example,

of the exhibition architecture, concentrating

seems to plummet despairingly into nothingness,

almost exclusively on the incisively stylized

Gustav Klimt Seated woman, huddled together, covered in a dark shawl, 1908–09 Study for Family (1909–10) Cat. no. 7.32

contour lines. In one sheet, he assembles

The museum owns various groups of studies

three freely varied women’s heads for the

related to these painting projects. In the drawings

Hostile Forces, thereby forming an autonomous

of nude women executed for Hope I (1903) and

composition; the focus is the demonically glaring, central figure of the three Gorgons, with her wild

Hope II (1907–08), Klimt visualizes the mystery of germinating life.9 In the studies for The Three Ages

hair and cramped fingers (cat. no. 5.24).

of Woman (1905), he focuses on both the physical

Jurisprudence, the third university painting (1903),

as well as the psychic aspects of the life cycle, in

was marked decisively by the monumentality

particular extreme old age. The bent-over woman

and linearism of the Beethoven Frieze. A brittle

figure in the earliest studies for Death and Life

linearity characterizes the studies for the jurists,

(1910–11, reworked in 1916), dating from 1908–09,

prominent among them the imposing half-length

and in the rare watercolor sheet for Family

portrait of a figure with harsh, sculptural facial

(1909–10), give expression to sorrow and

features (cat. no. 6.57). Klimt captures the bent-

melancholy (cat. no. 7.32). A special focus of the

over, haggard figure of the old man—the model

collection is on the studies executed for Water

for the Sinner—with fine, angular lines of black

Snakes I and II (both 1904–07), in which Klimt

crayon; the contours of the studies for the nude

thematizes lesbian love and autoeroticism for the

figure of Veritas, by contrast, display the curving,

first time, rendering them far more revealingly

sensuous quality of the drawings for the Gorgons

than in the paintings; produced in this context

in the Beethoven Frieze.

as well were a number of autonomous sheets. In

Despite various shifts in his style, Klimt would

the group of studies showing walking and reading

always remain essentially faithful to the

models as well as dancers, begun in 1906–07,

innovative drawing practice he developed in

from which the figure Expectation in the Stoclet

the framework of Philosophy and Medicine. As

Frieze would ultimately emerge (1910–11), Klimt

a draftsman, he would devote himself almost

takes up motifs from the Beethoven Frieze. The

exclusively to the individual (and primarily

theme of love between man and woman, a central

female) human figure, whether in the context of

theme for Klimt, was developed in a series of

themes related to life in general, including erotic

studies featuring the highly charged linear idiom

ones, or in the numerous studies for portraits

that was used by the artist at roughly the same

which are present in the collection. In the Golden

time in his preparations for the painting The Kiss

Style allegories produced after Jurisprudence

(1908), the most celebrated work of the Golden

and beyond, Klimt went back to the individual life

Style, and the couple Fulfillment in the Stoclet

themes of the first two university paintings and

Frieze. Beginning with the Beethoven Frieze,

set these in a monumental decorative context.

Klimt began anchoring his figures more securely

9 In an unused study of an old man, dated 1904–05, intended for the orants in Hope II (Strobl no. 1762), Klimt was apparently inspired by George Minne’s sculpture John the Baptist (blue stone, 71 cm, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent); see Bisanz-Prakken, “Gustav Klimt’s Drawings,” 2001, pp. 158–59.


than previously in the surface of the paper; he

the numerous studies devoted to this thematic

often allowed them to overlap the edges, so

area is a depiction of a seated woman with

that—whether recumbent or standing—they

a veil-like head covering, closed eyes, folded

seem to exist in a vacuum without beginning or

hands, and bare, opened thighs. In this work, the

end. Drawing now becomes an “art of space”;

dualism between eroticism and asceticism so

each sheet constitutes a world unto itself and

characteristic of Klimt achieves direct expression

is endowed with the character of a creed—

(cat. no. 9.14). This figure as well conveys a

especially in the period of the Golden Style. In all

trancelike not-of-this-world atmosphere of the

phases of Klimt’s activity, his main instrument

type manifested for the first time in the studies

was the perpetually mutating line. Around

for the university paintings under the influence

1903–04, Klimt exchanged soft black crayon

of Symbolism. Klimt’s approach as a draftsman

for a sharp metallic pencil, often supplemented

to existential nakedness, in conjunction with an

with blue and red pencil, the latter utilized

uncompromisingly linear idiom, prepared the way

independently at times. At the same time, there

for Expressionism.

was a transition away from the continuously identical format, based on sheets of packing paper divided into quarters, to a slightly lustrous type of imported Japanese paper in somewhat larger dimensions. The tension between sensuous immediacy and formal discipline, between tangible proximity and metaphysics, so characteristic of Klimt’s studies, was also typical of the drawings from the late years, which are marked by linear freedom; in them, the dominant role is played by female eroticism. Present are a number of studies for two central pictorial undertakings: The Virgin (1913) and The Bride (1917–18, unfinished), in which the typologically highly heterogeneous models are presented with varying degrees of moods of reverie or erotic ecstasy; apart from these studies there are a high number of autonomous sheets. Among 28

Gustav Klimt Upper bodies of an embracing couple, 1904–05 Cat. no. 10.4