Live from Vienna

"Death and Life" (1910)
Gustav Klimt

All of Vienna is throwing a birthday party!  It’s the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Klimt, Austria’s most famous artist.

The walls of Vienna’s world class museums are ablaze with Klimt’s famous shimmering gold-leaf paintings.  Windows of the shops, even of the grocery stores, glitter with his golden colors.

There is a party going on indeed!

But every party has a pooper…

In the early 1900s, many critics dismissed Klimt’s works as decorative and superficial…a painter of women of high society.  Others condemned his nudes as obscene.

A deeper look into Klimt’s paintings shows a profound search for understanding life.

One hundred and fifty years ago Vienna was a hotbed of new ideas.  Freud was beginning to explore the subconscious and sexuality.  Gustav Mahler was charging through the boundaries of classical music, composing heart-stopping symphonies.  Art deco architecture was all the rage throughout Europe.

The sensitive Klimt was greatly influenced by these revolutionary movements.  Look closely at his painting, “Death and Life,” above.

Thrilling colorful images tumble down the right side of the canvas…flickering mosaic like images of maternal serenity, erotic and familial love, youth and age, joy and suffering.  The figures appear to be dreaming.

Uh oh.  Hovering on the left of the painting is Death, skull-faced and cloaked in dark robes. Not one of the colorful life figures is looking at Death.  But Death is watching them.

Yes, this masterpiece is stunningly gorgeous.  But simply decorative it is NOT!

We are drawn into these images.  They become personal.  Are our eyes closed?  Are we truly aware of the fragility of life and all we hold dear?

Gustav Klimt lived life passionately and without social constraints.  Never married, he reportedly fathered 14 children.  Klimt died of a stroke in 1918 at age 55 during the height of his fame.

Happy Birthday, Gustav Klimt!

Remarkable video of Klimt’s masterpieces.
Click here if unable to view the video.

Another take on Klimt’s paintings!
Click here if unable to view the video.

Leave a Comment



  1. linda blair October 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Kirby and Bob! Thank you for carving out the time in Vienna to post thoughts on Klimt. Wonderful travels!

  2. Sissy October 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Kirb, i loved this and the Burning Film video was fantastic. I haven’t used my great pencilyet but I am anxious to do so. Love you, Sissy

  3. Donna Turner October 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Kirby, thank you for sharing more about Klimt. I love his intricate designs. What you said about how Death is looking at them but they are not looking at him, reminded me of your painting “Stranger in the House.” It has a similar quality of eeriness.

  4. Lydia Pettis October 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Thank you for another rare experience. I was wondering who influenced Klimt and how his unique style came about; so I went looking for an answer. One piece commented his work shows Byzantine, Greek, and Egyptian styles. O.K. But I still wonder how it all came together for him in such a unique and almost one of a kind style. Wish I could interview him! Also, I want to ask him to elaborate on his comment: “All art is erotic.” Lydia

    • kkeditor October 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Great comment, Lydia! I think Klimt was reading his own experience into his quote, “All art is erotic.”

  5. dede schuhmacher October 8, 2012 at 8:16 am - Reply

    what a statement on humanity. we live in our own world without our eyes opened to the possibility of death and how fragile life is and how it is our choice to live the life we were given.


Leave A Comment