Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Must see! GUSTAV KLIMT in the Sign of Hoffmann and the Secession

Gustav Klimt
Particolare dal fregio di Beethoven, 1901-1902
Materiali vari
(Venice, Italy) Venice is home to the second largest collection of Gustav Klimt in the world right now; the first is in Vienna, the Austrian artist's home town. Together with the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia presents Gustav Klimt nel segno di Hoffmann e della Secessione at the Museo Correr, a dynamic collaboration between two heavyweight museums -- which, incidentally, are both helmed by women directors. Gabriella Belli is the new director of all the civic museums of Venice, and she seems to be blowing off some dust.



3. Museo Archeologico Nazionale*

4. Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana**


Museum of 18th-Century Venice

and Study Centre for the History of Textiles
and Costumes

and Library for Theatrical

International Gallery of Modern Art and
Oriental Art Museum*





Upper Belvedere, Vienna
Agnes Husslein-Arco is the director of the Belvedere in Vienna, and I found her energy refreshing. During the press conference, she remarked, "Art is the Ambassador of a country to the world." A century after he participated in the Venice Biennale back in 1910, the Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt, returns to the lagoon in honor of the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1862 -- and a fine ambassador he is, even though in his own time he was often at odds with his government. From Wikipedia:

Gustav Klimt
Giuditta I, 1901
Olio e foglia d’oro on canvas
84x42 cm.
Belvedere, Vienna
The Klimt University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings, also known as the Faculty Paintings, were a series of paintings made by Gustav Klimt for the ceiling of the University of Vienna's Great Hall between the years of 1900-1907. In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to paint the ceiling. Upon presenting his paintings -- PhilosophyMedicine and Jurisprudence -- Klimt came under attack for 'pornography' and 'perverted excess' in the paintings. None of the paintings would go on display in the university. In May 1945 all three paintings were destroyed by retreating SS forces.

...This would also be the last time Klimt would accept commissions from the state, remarking: "I've had enough of censorship...I reject all state support, I don't want any of it."

...The paintings were requested for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri, but the ministry declined, nervous of what the reaction might be. Klimt then resigned his commission, wishing to keep his work, but the ministry insisted they were already property of the state. Only when Klimt threatened the removal staff with a shotgun was he able to keep his paintings. 

We can imagine the scene: Klimt, the frenzied creator of the paintings, armed with a shotgun, challenging some bewildered officers from the state who had arrived to take his creations away. Speaking from personal experience, an artist will protect their creation like a lion ferociously protects their young. I can almost understand why the state felt they had the right to snatch the art in Klimt's case -- in their mind, they had commissioned the paintings. If they were paying an artist, damn it, that artist must be forced to behave according to the Rules of State. However, Klimt was operating under different Rules. He was following the standards set by the Angels from a another world, the World of Art -- like Beethoven -- who had gone before. 

When the World of Art collides with the Material World, it is like a nuclear bomb. We must remember that King Ludwig II of Bavaria was the enlightened ruler of the World of Art during Klimt's formative years; Wagner was still going strong. At around the same time, Sigmund Freud zapped everyone awake with psychoanalysis right there in Vienna, and Carl Jung expanded on the theme. It was the turn of the century and The World of Art -- The Real World -- had kicked into high gear, which always spooks the state, which then, in turn, kicks into "crush, kill, destroy" mode. Attempting to radically move the state forward is no easy feat, though real artists never give up trying to do such things.

In any event, Klimt got his paintings back without firing a shot, with the help of his gutsy patrons, August Lederer, and his wife, Serena Pulitzer, together with Koloman Moser, fellow artist and founder of the Vienna Secession. 

Then, in 1945, the Nazis destroyed those paintings anyway, but by that time, Klimt had been dead for 27 years, and could only suffer from Heaven. 

Gustav Klimt 
Giuditta II (Salomé), 1909
Olio su tela 176x46 cm.
Venezia, Ca' Pesaro -
 Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna
Now, here we are in 2012, and Gustav Klimt, like many artists Before Their Time, is alive and well all around the globe. [In 2006, the 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (a fine name:) was purchased by Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie New York for $135 million dollars.] Curated by Alfred Weidinger, the aim of the exhibition is "to introduce the visitor to the genesis and evolution, in both architecture and painting, of Klimt's work and that of the other protagonists of the Viennese Secession." The Secession movement, founded in 1897, was a group of artists composed of painters, architects and sculptors with Klimt as its first president. As the new century dawned, these artists objected to the prevailing conservatism in Vienna about the same time that Sigmund Freud was rocking the boat with psychoanalysis. 

One of the main themes of the exhibition is Klimt's collaboration with Joseph Hoffman, the architect and interior designer. These two men strived to attain the total work of art. In 1902, the Secession decided to stage an exhibition devoted to Beethoven centered on Max Klinger's sculpture of the composer. Hoffman was the artistic director, who created three large rooms. In one of those rooms, Klimt depicted the Beethoven Frieze on three walls. I was mesmerized by the work. 

Based on Richard Wagner's descriptive interpretation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony -- in particular, Friedrich von Schiller's Ode to Joy -- Klimt illustrates the allegorical theme of Art's victory over adversity.

Beethoven Frieze
The well-armed Strong One, spurred by appeals of suffering humanity, takes up his sword prepared to do battle against the Hostile Forces. His way is obstructed by Typhoeus, the brutal and stubborn instinct, along with the Three Gorgon Sisters, the extreme opposite of spiritual evolution. Ultimately, the conquering hero achieves his goal surrounded by a choir of angels, and his lover's embrace.

Beethoven Frieze
Photo at: Secession

From the official Secession website:

The Beethoven Frieze was originally intended as an ephemeral work of art and, like the other decorative paintings, it was to be removed after the close of the exhibition. It was only owing to fortunate circumstances, that the frieze was not destroyed as planned: the Secession was to present the following year a major Klimt retrospective (XVIIIth exhibition, 1903), and it was decided to leave the work of art in place. 

In 1903 the arts patron and collector Carl Reinighaus purchased the frieze, which was cut into seven pieces to be removed from the wall and was stored for twelve years in a furniture depot in Vienna, until Reinighaus sold the frieze again in 1915 to the industrialist August Lederer. Lederer was one of Klimt's most important supporters and owner of what was probably the most extensive and important collection of Klimt pictures in private hands at that time.

In 1938 the Lederer family, like so many other families of Jewish origin, was dispossessed. The Beethoven Frieze was thus placed in "state custody" and was only officially returned to the ownership of the family heir Erich Lederer, who had meanwhile settled in Geneva, after the end of World War II. At the same time, an export ban was placed on the frieze, so that Erich Lederer finally decided - not least of all due to the increasingly urgent necessity of restoring the frieze - to sell it to the Republic of Austria.

In 1973 the Beethoven Frieze was purchased by the Republic of Austria and restored over the course of ten years under the direction of Manfred Koller from the Federal Office of Monuments Vienna. 

In the exhibition Traum und Wirklichkeit—Wien 1870-1930 at the Vienna Künstlerhaus, the frieze was displayed in a re-creation by the Hans Hollein Studio of its original setting by Josef Hoffmann. It was then transferred to a room in the Secession Gallery specially designed by Adolf Krischanitz.

The stunning Hans Hollein Studio recreation is what we have here in Venice, while the original is on show in Vienna in an exhibition entitled Close-up – GUSTAV KLIMT ~ GERWALD ROCKENSCHAUB – Plattform, which runs from March 23 to November 4, 2012. For more information, please go to the Secession site.

The Kiss
Gustav Klimt believed, "The arts lead us into an ideal realm, the only place where we can find pure joy, pure happiness, pure love." By the way, The Kiss, Klimt's most renowned work, is not here in Venice, because, according to Agnes Husslein-Arco, the Director of the Belvedere, "The Kiss does not travel." But it's a wonderful thing, isn't it, that The Kiss still exists, safe and sound in Vienna?

(dal ciclo Mille e una Notte)
Le principesse e i guerrieri, 1914
Olio e oro su tela, cm 171 x188
part 1 
In addition to GUSTAV KLIMT in the Sign of Hoffmann and the Secession at the Museo Correr, there will be a companion exhibition over at Ca' PesaroVenice's International Gallery of Modern Art, entitled Spirito klimtiano: Vittorio Zecchin e Galileo Chini e la grande decorazione a Venezia featuring two Italian artists inspired by Klimt. 
Venice acquired Judith II after 
Klimt's acclaimed participation
in the 1910 Venice Biennale. 

GUSTAV KLIMT in the Sign of Hoffmann and the Secession
Museo Correr
Piazza San Marco
San Marco 52, 
30124 Venice
Entrance for the public: St. Mark’s Square, Napoleonic Wing, Monumental Staircase

March 24 to July 8, 2012
Open Daily
CLICK for more information

SPIRITO KLIMTIAN: Vittorio Zecchin e Galileo Chini e la grande decorazione a Venezia
Ca' Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art
Santa Croce 2070,
30125 Venice
March 31 to July 8, 2012
Closed Mondays
CLICK for more information

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. Gustav Klimt believed, "The arts lead us into an ideal realm, the only place where we can find pure joy, pure happiness, pure love."