Archive | October, 2010

Klimt: Philosophy mural at University of Vienna

31 Oct

In 1894 Gustav Klimt was commissioned to do three paintings for the University of Vienna entitled PhilosophyMedicine and Jurisprudence.

This is the picture he presented for Philosophy:

 

Philosophy

 

 

“…Philosophy was, if anything, more disturbing than Medicine (check last post). Near the center an amorphous face emerged from the ether..was it God? Wisdom? To the side a column of naked, sinewy figures embraced and clutched their heads in despair or agony. And below them, nearly cut off at the bottom of the canvas, a clear-eyed, sinister woman stared directly at the viewer. Who was she? What did she represent?

The University professors were horrified. There was a meeting. Eighty-seven of them had signed a petition demanding that Philosophy not be hung in the Great Hall. They considered it an affront to reason and learning. The papers all carried accounts of the scandal, with various interpretations depending on their political slant. All of the critics weighed in, some very cruelly.

“I knew this would happen”, Klimt said. “The academics. They think art is like science, or should be. They want a nice equation, x plus y equals z. But its impossible. And even if it were possible, it wouldn’t be art.”

“Kraus said my paintings showed that I was ignorant of philosophy and that stupid people shouldn’t be allowed access to brushes and paint.”

excerpts from A Painted Kiss, by Elizabeth Hickey

 

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A Painted Kiss…Klimt’s art continues

31 Oct

“…I found a woman with red hair leaning against a slick dark tree trunk. It elicited a lecture on CONTRAST.

“…I saw the work of Klimt..the cartoons…They were only long rolls of paper fixed to the wall, but they were filled with light, like crystal chandeliers. I stepped very close to look at the brushstrokes. The paint slid across the paper in rivers and trickled down in rivulets.”

The artists studio “…had taped things to the walls: a color wheel, newspaper clippings about an actress named Limova from Moscow who had toured the European capital, engravings of buildings in Rome that had obviously been ripped from books, postcards, sketches of cubes and cylinders with measurements penciled in beside them.

Porträt der Eugenia (Mäda) Primavesi (1912)

“I gazed across the room at a pile of chairs in the corner next to the window. They were upside down and on their sides and stacked one on top of the other, the ones near the top dangling precariously. In the gray light they cast no shadow. It was like a pile of bones from the slaughterhouse. I tried to memorize the parallel lines and right angles and triangles and various tones of dark and light. Slowly the shapes sharpened into distinct pieces. I began to see each individual chair. It was a haphazard collection, begged and borrowed from friends and relatives: a stool painted white, a warped rocking chair, a tattered sofa….”

 

 

Moving on… to the fabulous mural Medicine designed by Gustav Klimt for the Great Hall of Vienna University. It was destroyed by fire in the Immendorf Palace in 1945, so only copies are now left. It was originally criticised for being a “lewd” representation of the Goddess, who is an allegory for Medicine.

 

Medicine, University Hall

… Alone on the left side was a nude woman, arms outstretched, who floated in space, held aloft by a watery substance, like amniotic fluid. Here was the obscene girl. Her pelvis was tilted forward in a suggestive way. All of the figures seemed to be suspended in the same viscous liquid. They were clumped on the left side of the painting like a pile of corpses. Some were in fact skeletons, shrouded in the long hair of hers. Pregnant woman, old men; all of humanity was included, suffering, tormented, dying.

It was nightmarish painting….it’s a philosophical work.

Hygeia

 

 

In the center her name is…HYGEIA, the goddess of health.

….” In Gustav’s allegory of medicine, Hygeia was in the foreground, looking like an avenging angel, dark, mysterious. I could not help but thing she was an Adele Bloch-Bauer type. Had he been thinking of her? Hygeia was hardly compassionate-looking type, holding her snake and cup. You could not be sure whether she was coming to heal you or kill you.

 

Portrait of Adele Block Bauer

This is Adele…

 

Excerpts from “A Painted Kiss”…on how to draw

30 Oct

 

Reclining nude 1888

 

Emilie’s first Art Lessons with Gustav Klimt:

…”Draw the brick. What is a brick?”

…clay that’s baked in an oven…

“Stoneware is clay baked in an oven too, but you wouldn’t confuse a pitcher with this brick now, would you?”

Klimt’ s first lessons in art school at 11 years old was to draw a brick.

“What’s a brick?”

A brick is a rectangular piece of clay that is fired in an oven and used as a building material

“Excellent, and draw what you see.”

“An artist can always learn by looking no matter how mundane the object.”

How do you make an object three dimensional, to show more texture?

Klimt drew upside down. It looked like a wedge of moldy cheese yet there was no doubt that it was a brick, and there was not doubt it was the brick on the table in front of us. It was more detailed than a fingerprint.

“If you keep looking you will able to do that.”

Emilie then progressed to:

“….spheres drawn with the flat of the charcoal, for volume. I drew with my eyes closed. I drew without looking at the paper. I drew in loops and squiggles, in one unbroken line, in sharp crosshatchings. I drew things i would never have thought to draw: a book lying open on the table, a dead pigeon.

“…I held the charcoal wrong, he said. It wasn’t a fistful of money, it was a skein of silk to be unwound. Held too tightly it wold catch or snare. I said that if I held it too loosely I would drop it. He said held too tightly I would break it, that I was supposed to trust it. How can I trust it, I thought, when it gives me these horrible, ugly drawings? I drew better when I was a baby and I was allowed to scribble on the back of used wrapping paper.”

All you have to do is LOOK.