austria | klimt, the ringstrasse & gold

Added on by Elizabeth Brunsman.

Women in Gold

We've been to several art galleries throughout Eastern Europe.  (Just haven't had a chance to write about them all!)  In fact, we saw an exhibition of Salvador Dalí's illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy while in Dubrovnik.

#1 Goal -- to catch an illuminated glimpse of Gustav Klimt's work in Vienna's Belvedere Palace.  

Ringstrasse  |  quick facts

  1. The Ringstrasse (German: Ringstraße) or the Vienna Ring Road was built beginning in the late 19th century to replace of the old city walls that had been built back in the 13th century.  
  2. The boulevard was built to show off the grandeur of the city and the Habsburg Empire (of course!) along with solidifying Vienna's claim as the center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Power, power, power.  
  3. Opulent public buildings (thank you wealthy Habsburgs) and private apartments (thank you wealthy bourgeoisie) were erected along the Ring Road.  With artists working in and outside of these buildings (like Klimt), Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef took notice. Always a good thing.

Klimt  |  quick facts

Klimt was a painter, first and foremost. (Note the painting of Marie Breunig to the left.)  But when we think of his success (or hear his name) we typically associate him with the "Golden Phase" where oil painting and gold leafing meld together.  (See artworks below.)

  1. Gustav, his brother Ernst and their friend Franz Matsch began to work together as the "Company of Artists."
  2. Klimt and the "Company of Artists" painted murals, ceilings, even theater curtain designs for opulent buildings along the Ringstrasse early on in their careers.  As artists develop, so do their styles/phases...
  3. Klimt's Golden Phase may be due to a bit of travel and influence by mosaics and Byzantine art and iconography.  
  4. As a symbolist painter, he focused his works on eroticism and the female body.  
  5. He was a very private man, but his work was extremely sought after during his lifetime.  He could be selective with his commissions.  
  6. You will never find a self-portrait of the artist.  
Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Marie Breunig

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Marie Breunig

Gustav Klimt, Judith

Gustav Klimt, Sea Serpents

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Woman in Gold  |  quick facts about the "Mona Lisa of Austria"

I'd recommend watching Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.  It's a more fun version of the story of the "Woman in Gold" or it's true title "Portrait of Adele Bloch- Bauer I."  But some quick facts...spoiler alert?

  1. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is considered Klimt's ultimate representation of his Golden Phase.
  2. Adele was wife to a wealthy industrialist in Vienna (who also happened to be a huge supporter of the arts).  She was the only model Klimt painted twice....because she was an absolutely hypnotizing beauty.  
  3. Nazis looted artworks during World War II and so Adele's portrait was removed from her widower's home after he fled.
  4. After WWII the Austrian state reacquired their artworks and Adele's portrait fell into the mix and was housed in the Belvedere Palace of Vienna. 
  5. Here's where things get hairy.  Adele's last will gave the impression that her portrait and other artworks would be given to the Austrian State Gallery after her husband's death. This was incorrectly interpreted and was brought to Austria's attention in 2000 when Adele's niece, Maria Altmann, sued the country in the US courts for ultimate ownership over the painting.  Should I spoil the ending....
  6. Adele's portrait is not hanging in the Belvedere any longer.  You'll find it in New York City, hanging splendidly in the Neue Galerie.  

After all of those facts....there are really no other words to describe the beauty this is embodied in his works.  They're truly something to behold and I would recommend a peek at Adele if you ever make it to New York City.  

Until next time....