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Rebel with a cause or just adolescent?
The Kiss is perhaps the most famous of Gustav Klimt's pieces. Inwrought with gold leaf and intricate design work it depicts a couple embracing; but it was the Portrait of Adel Bloch-Bauer, which he painted between 1904 and 1907 that brought notoriety for the highest value at sale – when it was auctioned in 2006 it made $135m, making it the most expensive painting in the world at that time.
But what of the life of this artist and his other achievements? What of the effect he had on artistic movements?
ProQuest provides researchers of Art with the most comprehensive range of database materials available. In this article we use some of the Art and Design packages available to explore some of the facts about Klimt’s life and the controversy that surrounded him.
A change of style
Artists are recognizable by their individual style – their use of media, their brushstrokes – Klimt is no different. But the pastiche approach to producing a piece that is recognizable instantly as Klimt bears no reflection to his earlier work, which was completely different in style.
Gustav Klimt came from a family of artistic people; his father was a silver and gold engraver. Klimt's talent was recognizable from an early age and there followed an extended conservative schooling at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kuntgewerbeschule), where he studied classical painters of his time and trained as an architectural painter. His artistic aptitude and draftsmanship quickly set him aside to the extent that he became known as one of the greatest classical painters of all time, his early career seeing him win awards for his mural paintings, which were more akin in style to the earlier work of Raphael.
Here you can see one of Klimt's earlier pieces.
Leader of the rebellion!
Klimt was an artist who was keen to move forward artistic ideals to promote acceptance of new levels of expression in art while at the same time explore ways in which art forms could be combined. Like many other artists of the time he had become disillusioned with the established Viennese Artists' Society, whose outlook was very traditional; and so out of protest in 1897 he helped form the Viennese Secession whereupon he was elected president by his fellow group of artists and architects.
Under the rallying cry 'To Every Age its Art, To Art its Freedom', they aimed to redefine the relationship between art and society. The Secession staged its first exhibition in spring 1898; and the poster they designed to promote it (featuring Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of the arts as the association's guardian) certainly drew attention…
Klimt's subsequent painting, Nuda Veritas in 1899, exemplifies the rebellious self-confidence of the Secession, committed to confronting the public with the naked truth.
However, Klimt’s continued use of the nude in ever more evocative poses started to attract negative press. And, following public outcry that his work was pornographic three pictures he had been commissioned to produce to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall in the University of Vienna were never used; all three were subsequently destroyed by German forces in the Second World War and many others were stolen.
Total work of art!
The Beethoven Frieze was another of Klimt's paintings that caused uproar when it was painted in 1902 because of the way it depicted women. However, this is now considered a seminal piece because it reflects Klimt’s attempt to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, (a total work of art): in this case a giant visual homage of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It is exactly this type of synthesis of forms that underpinned the efforts being made by Secessionists.
Klimt's value is recognized
As this article written by Jackie Wullschlager and sourced from Financial Times shows, it took some time for Klimt to attain recognition and accolade with his new style and it was only really years after his death that Klimt’s work shot to prominence.
Today, of course, his paintings are among the most valuable and sought after in the world (as this 2007 auction result from Antiques and Collecting Magazine shows). Source of this journal? EL
There are literally thousands of different journals and periodicals available for review within ProQuest's Arts databases, so when it comes to being thorough, you can be sure that ProQuest will deliver for your institute.
Part of the joy of researching art is to understand what the artist intended – what underlying messages and psychology are being employed. This is especially evident where Klimt is concerned as almost his entire work is based around using art as an expression of sentiment.
Through ProQuest the art researcher will be spoiled for choice where they are in search of critical evaluations of Klimt’s work (or indeed, any other artists' works).
And when undertaking such critical evaluation, the researcher will find a mixed opinion about the approach Klimt took to his art. Klimt suffered a number of tragic losses, his sister dying when he was just 13, then later his father and brother dying when he was 30. So was he painting naked women in protest against the traditional conservative style of the day? Or was he (as the article below from Adolescent Psychiatry suggested) just obsessed by such images as the result of a delayed or arrested adolescent development?
Brockman points out that it was probable that Klimt knew Freud personally – certainly each of them would have been aware of the others' new ideas around the roles of sexuality and the controversy they're opinions were causing!
The psychology researcher will find a great many varied and interesting interpretations of Klimt's work, especially around the turn of the century when Freud's concepts of psychoanalysis were very new.
Inspiration for theater set and costume design
Yet another prominent angle that art researchers investigate within their studies is the influence various styles and genres have elsewhere. There is no doubt that Klimt would have been delighted to have seen his color palette being used as the basis for stage sets (as the article from Stage Directions shows), as this is exactly the type of cross promotion and interaction the Secessionists were seeking to achieve.
ProQuest's range of Arts products caters to researchers across the whole of the Arts discipline, whether studying art, music, film, theatre, media, culture and the performing arts, fashion, architecture or design.
About the Arts portfolio from ProQuest
ProQuest takes the drama out of locating authoritative resources for the arts. Comprehensive bibliographic records, abstracts, and full text are gathered from key journals, reviews, books, catalogs, dissertations, essays, and more, enabling scholars to quickly locate relevant information.
Databases included within the ProQuest Arts portfolio:
Film and TV
Music and Performing Arts
Art and Architecture
Klimt – what could you discover?