Friday, August 31, 2007

The Upper Belvedere Presents Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the Artists Company

The Upper Belvedere Presents Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the Artists Company


Gustav Klimt, Sonja Knips, 1898, Oil on canvas, Belvedere, Vienna. © Belvedere.

VIENNA.-The Upper Belvedere presents Gustav Klimt and the Artists Company, on view through October 2, 2007. The Belvedere possesses the largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the largest Gustav Klimt research archive in the world. Over 20 masterpieces have been integrated into the newly organized collection and provide a comprehensive view of the Austrian artist’s creative life. As one of the founders of the Vienna Secession and organizers of the Vienna Kunstschau (1908), Klimt played a key role in gaining international recognition for the Viennese avantgarde.

The Belvedere shows his development from the first confrontations with Impressionism and his Secessionist art (The Kiss, 1908) to his later work, which had a strong influence on the younger generation of Austrian artists, including Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele.

Klimt and the Artists Company - The exhibition focuses on the development of Klimt and the Artists Company with some 50 exhibits (including canvases and works on paper), beginning with Klimt’s earliest work and extending through the modern period. As part of its permanent collection, the Belvedere has prepared a selection of works by the Company as well as unique pieces by Gustav Klimt, Ernst Klimt and Franz Matsch, within the context Historicist art. Central works include Gustav Klimt’s Fable (1883) and early portrait of Sonja Knips (1898), Franz Matsch’s depiction of his children Hilda and Franzi Matsch (1901), as well as paintings by the Company from Peles Castle in Sinaia, which are being shown outside of Romania for the first time. The research conducted in preparation for the exhibition and for a catalogue raisonné of Gustav Klimt’s paintings has for the first time been able to clearly identify the contributions of individual artists to the Company’s collective works.

The Origins of Historicism - Driven by a sense for the picturesque and partly inspired by the Neo-Baroque - under such artists as Gottfried Semper, Carl von Hasenauer and the theater architects Fellner and Helmer – late Historicism prompted the construction of public monuments in Vienna. Painting and design were strongly influenced by Hans Makart (1840-1884). His large-format paintings featured mythological and allegorical subjects. Among other works of art, this exhibition includes a design by him for a mural for the Empress Elisabeth’s bedroom in her Hermesvilla castle in Vienna.

During his studies at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), Klimt, together with his brother Ernst (1864-1892) and their class-mate Franz Matsch (1861-1942), founded the “Künstler-Compagnie” (Artists Company). The collaboration began with the design of a pageant, which Hans Makart created for the emperor and his wife in Vienna in 1879.

The Triumph of a Young Painters’ Collective - The young painters started to receive commissions for murals in palaces and public buildings. Their works were quickly produced and created an unusually bold and spontaneous impression. Commissions for the Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer for theaters in Austria-Hungary and in the Balkans were followed by works for the Romanian royal family’s Peles Castle. With the design of the spectacular staircases of the Burgtheater and of the Art History Museum in Vienna, the Company was able to establish itself as the “Ringstraße painters”.

After nearly 20 years, the studio collective was disbanded after the death of Ernst Klimt and prolonged discussions about paintings for the auditorium of the University of Vienna.

Art Students Become the “Ringstraße Painters” - Ferdinand Julius Laufberger (1829-1881), long-time director of the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, worked hard to procure artistic commissions for financially challenged students. After the sudden death of their teacher in 1881, three of his students – Gustav Klimt, Ernst Klimt und Franz Matsch – established a studio collective and began applying for public mural commissions as the “Künstler-Compagnie”. In 1884, Franz Matsch, who had taken on the management of the company, put together an impressive letter of application to Rudolf Eitelberger, who at the time was the director of the Austrian Museum for Art and Industry:

Most Estimable Sir!
Only now that we have managed to set up our studio and settle down to work, please allow us to briefly introduce the program of our company. As Your Honor will remember, we completed large projects under the direction of our unforgettable master Professor Laufberger. He created the foundation for our collaboration, which we continued under the direction of Professor Berger.

Our master’s teachings were of such a robust, universal nature that we consider ourselves infinitely fortunate to have had the opportunity to benefit from them. As we were students of the very same master, and it is the highest goal of each of us to respect his invaluable wisdom, we believe that we are on the right path to putting his teachings into practice by working together and mutually criticizing each others’ work.

In the explanation of the work we desire to carry out, allow us to make reference again to our blessed master, Professor Laufberger, whose great creations in various areas of art and applied art, serve for us as great inspiration. We believe that our collaboration is a decisive advantage, as thanks to our greater creative energy the commission will be completed more rapidly and the sum of our experiences will grow.

Up until now, the majority of our work has been carried out in the province and in foreign countries. Our utmost desire is now to complete a larger work for our great home city and perhaps this will be the opportunity to do so. As the new monuments in Vienna are approaching their completion, and the interior decoration will only be assigned to the most qualified, only the most outstanding artists will be engaged. We are thus now turning to Your Honor with the most humble request to make use of your kind influence to mercifully help us achieve our goals.

In consideration of the fact that during our time as students Your Honor allowed us to benefit from your goodwill, we would like to humbly request that Your Honor continue to confer Your benevolent assistance upon us, as we are very much in need of it. In conclusion, allow us to remark that thanks to a studio the use of which we have been granted free of charge, we are now very much able to carry out the program described above.

With utmost respect we are most humbly Yours,
Franz Matsch
Gustav Klimt
Ernst Klimt
Atelier VI. B., Sandwirthgasse Nr. 8“1

The Company presented itself with this letter as a capable team, qualified to carry out large-scale commissions, as they were able to complete the required work more quickly and yet just as uniformly as a single artist. This extremely practical and pragmatic approach to creative work was impressed upon them in the School of Arts and Crafts, meeting the demands created by the intense construction activity inspired by Historicism on Vienna’s Ringstraße and beyond.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home