Thursday, May 13, 2010

I've had this Klimt book for ages but never really bothered to read it, preferring to just leaf through and skip the text.

The other day while the girls paddled around the pool at the health club I took a few minutes and learned a few things about the progression of his work.

At left is Portrait of Fritza Riedler (1906). I don't know about you, but it always seems interesting to me to trace the trajectory of an artist's work.

Here is the Portrait of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstien.

This is thought to be a transitional work between the rather traditional kind of portrait he'd created with Portrait of Sonja Knips. As Maria Constantino points out in Klimt, at first glance the portraits don't bear much resemblance to each other, but each does have the same triangular composition as well as "a certain tension, expressed. . through the hands." I had not noticed those hands, but they are indeed clenched, not very Sargent-like, lacking those soft, loose brushstrokes.

One of the more interesting things Constantino points out is the halo/crown kind of decoration Klimt creates around Fritza Reidler's face. She suggests the idea for this came from Klimt's study of Velasquez (apparently on display in Vienna at the time). Remember that Lady Gaga hairdo on Maria Theresa of Spain (1652-3)? You'll have to scroll back up to see the decorative treatment Klimt creates around the figure's head in the first two portraits on this post. Just jumps out at you.

I worry so much about avoiding any kind of borrowing of other artists' ideas, but here's another instance of taking an idea, and carrying it in a new direction. Alfred E. Newman and I should relax.


  1. I've never seen any of Klimt's early work, so it's fascinating to see less stylized portraits...the earliest one is actually quite lovely

  2. The portrait of Sonja Knips was used for the cover of an edition of Stefan Zweig's Beware of Pity that I bought secondhand many years ago. Those thin arms and clenched hands (and determined expression) were perfect for the invalid Edith.

  3. You have an amazing number of covers featuring art - I must admit I am completely unfamiliar with Beware of Pity. You could probably do well as a free lance cover designer deciding which artworks should go with which novels.