"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.
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Another take on Klimt’s paintings!
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