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Monday, 6 July 2015


Gustav Klimt painted several Viennese bourgeoisie women, including art lover, patron and close friend Adele Bloch-Bauer:

Adele Bloch-Bauer 1, Oil, Silver and Gold on Canvas, 1907 © Neue Galerie, New York
Commissioned by wealthy industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, this is one of two enigmatic portraits of his wife Adele painted by Klimt. The painting took three years to complete and Klimt did several preliminary drawings that date from 1903. Klimt was the first president of the Vienna Secession, which broke away from the traditional methods of painting espoused by the art establishment and advocated the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, or a 'a total work of art', which removed the boundaries between differing art forms.

This painting epitomises Klimt's ‘Golden Style’, evident in the rich ornamental detail and sumptuous patchwork of ornaments where Mycenean gold blends with Byzantium. The portrait shows an interesting mix of naturalism, seen in Adele's interlaced hands and face as well as the influence of Egyptian art, visible in the decorative style of her dress, the chair and gold background. The dense use of ovoids, eyes, spirals, triangles and squares act as both ornamental motifs and erotic symbols. Adele’s status is ambiguous; she resembles both a decadent, threatening femme fatale and a religious idol, enshrined and captured for eternity in a casing of precious metals. 

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