I recently purchased the monumental “Gustav Klimt – The complete Paintings” hardcover, large format book (26.7 x 5.1 x 34.8 cm over 600 pp!) published by the always dependable Taschen and edited by Tobias G. Natter.
It is a wonderful book illustrated lavishly in colour, printed on good quality paper and brimming with new photographs of familiar works, but also containing some gems that were previously unknown to me. I have started to read it and the style is academic and at times overly critical (in the sense of “art-criticese”), however, the text is informative and full of contemporary material that relates to the artist, including extracts from his writings.
One of my favourite artists, the Viennese Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) still surprises with his overt eroticism, amazingly intricate surface designs, and experimentation. Although a little expensive (I’ve seen prices between $80 and $250 online and in bookshops), it’s worth it!
In 1897 Klimt’s mature style emerged, and he founded the Vienna Sezession, a group of painters who revolted against academic art in favour of a highly decorative style similar to Art Nouveau. Soon thereafter he painted three allegorical murals for the ceiling of the University of Vienna auditorium that were violently criticized; the erotic symbolism and pessimism of these works created such a scandal that the murals were rejected. His later murals, the Beethoven Frieze (1902) and the murals (1909–11) in the dining room of the Stoclet House in Brussels, are characterized by precisely linear drawing and the bold and arbitrary use of flat, decorative patterns of colour and gold leaf.
Klimt’s most successful works include The Kiss (1908–09) and a series of portraits of fashionable Viennese matrons, such as Fritza Riedler (1906) and Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907). In these works he treats the human figure without shadow and heightens the lush sensuality of skin by surrounding it with areas of flat, highly ornamental, brilliantly composed areas of decoration.