Vienna celebrates "The Kiss" painter Gustav Klimt
By Silvia Meixner Feb 28, 2012, 3:05 GMT
Vienna - In view of such a concentration of artists, almost every year in Austria seems to be an anniversary. Some festivities are larger, others smaller.
But this is a very big year. First, there's the author Arthur Schnitzler, whose 150th birthday anniversary falls this year. But secondly, and more important, the main festive attraction will be kicked off in marking the 150th birthday of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), a painter who was at the vanguard of the modernist movement.
The Klimt anniversary celebrations, it is hoped, will assure Vienna of record tourism numbers. And the chances of this are pretty good, for the painter is being celebrated in no fewer than nine special exhibitions.
Reigning over everything is the famous painting 'Der Kuss' (The Kiss) which still holds millions of people in thrall, ever since it was unveiled in 1908. Framed in red, the painting evokes a mixture of melancholy, memory and the yearning for love in viewers.
The painting has travelled far and wide. After exhibitions in Australia and Switzerland last year, The Kiss will be back in its home museum in Belvedere Palace.
For those who do not want to share a view of the painting with strangers, one hotel has a special offer guaranteeing 10 minutes of viewing it 'completely undisturbed' - for those who book a room at the hotel.
Every Viennese museum, it appears, has thoroughly scoured through its archives in what boils down to a contest - who has the most Klimt paintings? Five paintings, including the famous 'Adel Bloch-Bauer I' which is better known as 'Golden Adel,' had to be returned to their rightful heirs in the United States. But there is still plenty of Klimt left to go around.
At the time, many art critics were shocked by the scandalous painter, calling his works 'obscene' and 'pornographic.' Today, Klimt motifs decorate silk scarves, coffee cups, calendars, and marmalade jars. There is even a Klimt sparkling wine.
Like so many geniuses, Klimt first had to leave his home country in order to prove his talent to his countrymen. He was celebrated in Rome and Paris while back in Vienna, people continued to complain about his style of painting.
Those embarking on the Klimt trail in Vienna will usually go first to the building of the so-called Secession.
In 1897 Klimt, along with Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich and other artists founded the 'Viennese Secession' movement in splitting away from the established Vienna Kuenstlerhaus school of painting. These artists were fed up with an aesthetic dominated by conservative taste and oriented along historicism lines.
In his early years Klimt himself had faithfully followed the Kuenstlerhaus style. But later in life, he did not like to be reminded of such works as the beautiful ceiling painting of the Burgtheater. In 2012, the central focus is again on these works.
On the edge of Vienna, the villa where Klimt had his studio is now being restored. The reopening has been postponed several times and is now planned for sometime next autumn. By then the official 150th birthday - July 14 - will have passed, but Vienna has declared all of 2012 a year of Klimt celebrations.
Belvedere Palace owns the largest collection of Klimts in the world, and it is here that the architect and designer Josef Hofmann is being feted along with Klimt. The two men's intensive cooperation lasted a lifetime.
The Kunsthistorische Museum (art history museum) in Vienna is focusing on the middle years of Klimt's work, the period of 1886 to 1897, displaying 13 paintings and initial drafts in the museum's large stairway hall.
Further exhibitions are scheduled, among other places, in the Albertina Museum, where from March 14 to June 10 a show of Klimt's drawings is scheduled. The museum of applied arts MAK is staging a show exclusively devoted to Klimt's designs for the mosaic decoration in the banquet hall of Palais Stoclet.
Meanwhile the Kuenstlerhaus is exhibiting documents, letters and photographs from its archives in documenting the life of the painter, who was a member until 1897.
And the Austrian ethnological museum is also part of the Klimt year activities, with an exhibition of items from the estate of Emilie Floege, including embroideries, fine laces and cloths with Jugendstil ornamentation.
Floege was Klimt's lifetime companion. What would an artist be without love? To this day people still wonder how many women Klimt had and how many children. Officially, there was only one recognized son but there are rumours about many more offspring. For Klimt was anything but morose. The painter is said to have had many affairs with his models.
Emilie Floege, along with her sister Helene, operated the high fashion salon 'The Floege Sisters,' designed in Jugendstil, or Art Nouveau style, by Josef Hoffmann, in Mariahilfer street. Austria's wealthy and VIPs were frequent guests there and the salon became a marketplace for the latest society gossip. Unfortunately it hasn't been preserved for posterity.
In a city of rumours and gossip, practices which to this very day are lovingly and intensively cultivated, such talk goes down best over coffee and pastries in a Vienna coffee house. And naturally in this anniversary year, there will be two special treats, a 'Klimt Pie' and a 'Klimt Guglhupf' (soft, doughy marble cake).
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