Sunday, 10 August 2008

Gustav Klimt.

Back in June ‘The Culture Show’ did an item on the upcoming Gustav Klimt exhibition at ‘The Tate Liverpool’. This was a cause of some excitement to me as it was possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a collection of this size by one of my favourite artists. Fortunately for me Rachael is a fan of his work too, so we booked the tickets online and headed for Liverpool on Friday.
I have spent quite a lot of time in various art galleries throughout my life. During my teenage years a tour of the local galleries was what constituted a good day out. I wasn’t an art student or anything. I just love art galleries. And I have in that time spent quite a while looking like a pillock staring at various works of art. But I don’t think I have ever stood before any piece of work for so long as I did on Friday. There is almost too much to look at and too much to try and take in.

Most of the paintings in this collection are very well known and would be familiar to everybody. It was a strange feeling to be stood in front of a piece that I felt I knew well, and still be surprised by it.

I never realised how three-dimensional some of the paintings are, you just don’t get any sense of that from a photograph. There is a portrait of Eugenia Primavesi in the collection that if you look ‘here’ you can see that the paint has been applied quite thickly. But close to you can see it is so thick that it could have been laid on using fingers and thumbs.

The landscapes came as a surprise too. No photograph of these works can do them justice. Their scale alone makes them impressive. Usually all you get to see are portions of these paintings. In the flesh they are huge canvases filled with colour and depth. Sadly they were all too large to slip one up my jumper.

The exhibition covers work throughout the artist’s life, and demonstrates well the eclectic and varied nature of the man and of his work. So disparate was his style that it is hard to imagine some of the pieces being made by the same hand. Most artist’s work changes and evolves over their lifetimes, and their growth as an artist can be plotted by the flavour of their work.

What is unusual about Klimt is that he continued to work in these varied styles throughout his career. Changing from symbolism to a more impressionistic style and back again seemingly without any difficulty at all. Even mixing very different styles within a single piece.

If you look at his golden phase pieces you can see his very different styles all within the same work. From accomplished and highly detailed features of the faces to the bold and even naïve looking surroundings. These contrasts of style are what give Klimt’s work its haunting dreamlike quality.

I have a particular fondness for his sketches. Simple, fluid line drawings. They have a lightness of touch and a freeness of form and movement that is stunning. In all of Klimt’s work his love of women is evident but it is in his sketches that I find the truest expression of simple beauty. Although it has to be said that the erotic nature of some of the sketches is not to everybody’s taste.
The centrepiece of the exhibition has to be a recreation of the ‘Beethoven Frieze’. Sadly it’s not the original, which is in ‘The Secession Building’ in Vienna. But that does not detract from the scale, power and awe-inspiring majesty of the 34 metre long piece. This was contributed by Klimt for the The Secessionists 14th Exhibition. Unbelievably it was intended to be destroyed when the exhibition finished.

I was slightly disappointed that ‘The Kiss’ was not part of the collection. This is also in Vienna. But it doesn’t seem right to dwell on the glass being half empty when the half that was full, blew me away.

1 comment:

popeye said...

Hi, I was wondering where you found the klimt sketch, "study of a woman"

If you could email me at