Paintings by Klimt & Music by Shostakovich – Jazz Suite No. 2: VI. Waltz 2
I particularly love Klimt’s distinctive style and his ability to paint rich patterns, one against another, sometimes with heavy use of gold. In his portraits, the face of the sitter often appears to float in a sea of patterned gowns and furnishings, but his paintings are not confusing and the colours and patterns do not clash and offend the eye. I also enjoy the landscape and woodland pictures, which are also virtually reduced to flattened areas of line and pattern. It is such a great pity that some of Klimt’s works are lost forever, often with no photos or only black and white images, following the fire at the Schloss Immerdorf in 1945 after the war which was started by retreating Nazi soldiers to stop the art treasures being taken by the advancing Russian army, including a delightful picture of the composer Schubert at the piano. However many beautiful works by Gustav Klimt remain and are widely known and loved, one of the most famous being “The Kiss”. A large number of his works can be seen in The Secession Gallery in Vienna.
“A painting is like a game of chess; you have to plan your moves.”
These are the words of Elizabeth Hickey in her book ‘The Painted Kiss’. Hickey tells the story of the artist Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge, who met the artist at twelve years old, when he was employed to teach her to draw, eventually becoming his mistress and muse. Although she stays with him through many joys and difficulties her place in his life is never truly acknowledged. The story starts in 1886, in the thriving artistic centre Vienna, where we meet the wealthy Flöge family and Hickey tells of visits to the opera and drinking chocolate in the bustling cafes of the time, of a world of wealth and high fashion. Eventually the political climate of the era leads to unavoidable and irreversable change for all concerned.
I enjoyed the book immensely, in particular the picture it painted of relatively carefree Viennese life in the late 19th Century and the biographical information it contained about Klimt. Information about Klimt is limited as he did not keep a diary or write much about his methods and when asked why he had not painted a self portrait replied simply:
“Who ever wants to know something about me…ought to look carefully at my pictures.”
Emilie Flöge is well documented as the companion of Klimt and I am sure Elizabeth Hickey in her research sought to be as accurate as possible. However, this is a story and as with all stories based on reality, there will be gaps where the author has no choice but to be creative. This is not a criticism, however, and I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the life and times of Gustav Klimt.