Posts Tagged ‘Gustav Klimt’


There is always hope, as long as the canvasses are empty.

–Gustav Klimt


This quote from Klimt made me smile this morning, a little knowing smile. When I am getting ready for a show, such as I am now, the studio is initially filled with prepared empty canvasses of a wide variety of sizes, coated with layers of gesso and topped with a thick layer of black paint. They are everywhere, all propped up against any available surface that will support them.

Having them around is comforting, representing possibility. It is the hope of which Klimt speaks. Each blank canvas has the possibility of being a whole new world, a new experience, a new revelation. There is almost a hum of potential life coming from them.

But as the weeks and months pass and many of the canvasses are painted, taking on their new identities, the supply of blank surfaces dwindles down to the point where there is now only a smattering of blank canvasses scattered around the studio. It is at this point when I get anxious, most likely from no longer being surrounded by those empty surfaces that have come to symbolize hope and potential for me.

It is at this point that I can begin to see the end of this painting session, that soon I will have to stop for a bit to ready the work, to photograph, to stain frames and varnish paintings to make them presentable for the show. This makes makes me a little glum because I am usually very hyped up and wanting to do even more, to further explore all the new avenues that are opening up before me in the paintings in which I am working.

Looking around now and seeing just a few empty canvasses is a reminder of that coming point. It makes me pause in for a moment, anticipating that coming shift of gears, and for that moment I am a bit down. But reading Klimt’s words makes me smile, knowing that I just received a new shipment of canvas the other day which is waiting patiently downstairs to be prepped so that it soon can carry all my hopes and possibilities.

And the glumness fades.


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“You must study the Masters but guard the original style that beats within your soul and put to sword those who would try to steal it.”

El Greco


These words from El Greco (1541-1614) certainly were reflected in the influence his work had down through the ages. Many artists through the ages have appropriated his compositions and rendered them in their own original styles. Picasso, for example, was influenced by the elongated figures of El Greco. His View of Toledo is considered one of the first paintings solely focused on landscape, as well as the first cityscape. Below, you might be able to see a connection between it and Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

For myself, in the painting here at the top, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, a massive painting that is about fifteen foot tall, I was struck by the gold clad figures (St. Stephen and St. Augustine) at the bottom who are lowering the dead aristocrat into his tomb. The colors and positions of the figures had me seeing them as figures in a Gustav Klimt painting.

Looking at the detail below, I could see them as being influences on his The Kiss. I don’t know whether they were an influence, but it certainly jumped into my mind. If so, kudos to Klimt for translating it into his own original style that beats within his soul, as El Greco may have put it.

And that is what influence should be. It is not trying to replicate, to copy, another’s work. It is in taking it in and synthesizing it using one’s own unique voice. I think every artist does this in some form. You just may not immediately notice it in the very good ones.

Detail from “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”

“View of Toledo” and “Starry Night”

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Knowing Klimt


Whoever wants to know something about me – as an artist which alone is significant – they should look attentively at my pictures and there seek to recognise what I am and what I want.

Gustav Klimt


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Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin- First Version

I am a fan of the Symbolist painters from  around the end of the 19th century, artists like Edvard Munch, Gustav KlimtOdilon Redon. and many others created incredible works that were just a little beyond reality but beautiful and with a presence that lingered with the viewer. There are many great examples but one of those paintings with a lingering effect is the Isle of the Dead from  Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901).

Depicting an island where the bodies of the dead were interred, it is a powerful and somber image. Several locations are reputed to be the inspiration for this painting, including several tiny Mediterranean islands with similar cypress trees and chapels. Some believe it to be based on a cemetery in Florence, Italy near the artist’s studio where his infant daughter was buried.

Böcklin lost 8 of his 14 children to death, so the concept of death was something that was always near. This was not that uncommon in that time. Most families lost one or more children in early childhood and death was an accepted part of this world. During this time, at the end of the 19th century, it wasn’t unusual for a family to take portraits of their loved ones soon after they died.

Böcklin painted five versions of this instantly popular work for collectors. One version, the third, was bought by Adolf Hitler in 1933 and now hangs in the National Gallery in Berlin. Another, the fourth, was destroyed by a bombing raid in World War II and only exists now as a black and white photograph.

This painting had something  with which people deeply identified and it was the new popularity of mass produced lithographic prints in the time that gave it staying power. It was said that one couldn’t enter a Berlin home at the turn of the century without coming across a print of the painting on the wall. This image has maintained quite a bit of its following through the years, even having websites dedicated to it.

As I said, it is a powerful image that lingers in your mind long after you see it. I know it does for me. It has definitely been a huge influence on a number of painters and other artists.

In 1888, Böcklin created a painting, Isle of Life (see below), that he considered the converse image to his now famous Isle of the Dead.  It has living people, animals, greenery and a generally more upbeat appearance. But it certainly doesn’t come close to the soul jolting impact of its antithesis.

But you be the judge…

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin- Fifth Version

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin-Second Version

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin-Fourth Version Destroyed

Isle of Life – Arnold Böcklin

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin- Third Version

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Klimt Music

Lately, when I have been very busy, I’ve been sharing some videos of artists’ work set to music.  For example, I’ve shared videos of the works of Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton in recent weeks.  It’s always interesting to see artists work set to music, especially when they seem to complement one another.

Well, I am busy again today but want to share a nice video featuring the work of Gustav Klimt put together by a Brazilian musician, Juliano Cesar Lopes, who creates musical scores for films under the name JCSL Studio Recording. He has produced a number of short films like this one as a showcase for his skills. I like his work on this short film and hope you will as well.


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Vittorio Zecchin- Les Mille  et Une Nuit

Vittorio Zecchin- Les Mille et Une Nuit

I often come across work online, some that just captures me immediately, and wonder how it is that I have never heard of the artist behind it.  Such is the case with Vittorio Zecchin, an Italian artist who lived from 1878 until 1947.  I came across the image above and it really rang my bell.  It had vibrant color and shapes throughout with a form and richness that brought the work of Gustav Klimt to mind.

Vittorio Zecchin -les mille et une nuits  1Looking for more info I found that background info on Zecchin was sketchy.  He was raised on Murano, one of the famed islands of Venice  known for its glass-making.  His father was a glass-maker and Zecchin grew up immersed in color and form.  He studied art but, feeling his voice would not be heard in the somewhat conservative artistic atmosphere of Venice at the time, put it aside in his early 20’s to pursue a job as civil servant.  However, he came back to painting around the age of 30, spurred on by a new movement in Venice of artists inspired by Klimt and other artists.

Vittorio Zecchin -les mille et une nuits 4All of this pieces shown here are from his grandest work, a mural completed in 1914 for the Hotel Terminus that consisted of 11 or 12 panels ( I have found conflicting reports) that measure around 300 feet in total length.  Called Les Milles et Une Nuit ( A Thousand and One Nights), it depicts the entourage of  kings, queens, princesses and princes as they bear gifts to encourage the Sultan to give his daughter’s hand to Aladdin.  You can see the influence of Klimt but more importantly you can see the influence of the glass and color of Venice.  Unfortunately, the panels are no longer together, having been dispersed throughout the art world over the years.

From this achievement, Zecchin moved on to incorporating his keen eye for design to other endeavors in the decorative arts.  He started a tapestry workshop on Murano in 1916 then became the director of the famed Cappellin-Venini glass works, as well as working with a number of other prestigious glass works until he retired at the age of 6o.  He said he was exhausted and  he was sucked dry.

I would love to have been able to see this painting complete and in its original setting.  Or even in some complete form online.  But I am simply pleased to have come across it at all.  There is something very encouraging in his work that pleases me.  And that is enough for now.

Vittorio Zecchin -les mille et une nuits  3


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Jan_Toorop_Fatalisme 1893I recently came across the work of the artist Jan Toorop and really found myself attracted to his imagery.  I hadn’t heard of him but at the first glimpse immediately wanted to see more.  Toorop  was another of those artists who have not garnered as much attention outside his home in the Netherlands as you might expect when you consider the work and the influence it had on other artists of the time. Toorop’s work largely influenced the work of Gustav Klimt and other Symbolist painters of Northern Europe.  You can see this in the piece above, Fatalisme.

Jan Toorop was a Dutch-Indonesian artist born on Java in 1858 who moved to the Netherlands as boy.  He worked in many styles in his early career, sometimes in pure Realism but often following the trends of the time.  He produced work in a decidedly Pointillist style as well as work that was purely Impressionistic.  But in the early 1890’s he began to develop the style that garnered the attention of many other artists.  It was Symbolist imagery based on Javanese motifs carried by dense and curvilinear line work.  Eventually, this led to him working in an Art Nouveau style later in his career.

Toorop died in 1928.  There is a Jan Toorop Research Center that has a site that displays the wide range of his work in a chronological fashion. I like this way of showing the work as you can see the evolution in style over time.  His daughter, Charley Toorop, was a celebrated painter as well who produced a series of wonderful self-portraits throughout her life and had another very accomplished painter for  a son (and grandson of Jan), Edgar Fernhout.  A very talented family, indeed.

Compelling work for you to consider…

Jan Toorop Oh Grave Where is Thy Victory 1892 Jan Toorop Three Brides Jan_Toorop_-_The_New_Generation_ 1892 Jan Toorop The Song of Time 1893





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klimt-portrait-of-adele-bloch-bauerAnother artist whose work always draws my eye is that of Gustav Klimt, whose popularity continues through the success of  sales of items such as posters, prints, cards and calendars, all bearing his distinctive images.  Who hasn’t seen an image of  The Kiss on something?

For me , the attraction to Klimt’s work is in the way many of his pieces can be viewed as objects rather than a scene on a picture plane.  There is a feeling that you can be both in the painting and outside it.  This is a hard quality to describe for me.  Maybe it can best be equated to the  religious icon paintings of the Russians.

klimt_giudittaThis objectification  of his paintings has been a big influence on my work.  I have always wanted to create paintings that were as much objects as they were mere scenes on a panel.  Of course, this is done in my own way, not nearly so ornate as Klimt’s.  His influence may not even be visible in my work, nor should it as it is not a stylistic influence but rather a conceptual one.

This is just another example of how truly diverse work can inspire the artist and why it is so important for young artists to view a wide spectrum of art and artists.   There is so much to be gained from keeping an open mind and drawing as much as possible from the minds of others, in art and in life.klimt_pallas-athene 




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