Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Klimt at Tate Liverpool

Sorry - no pictures in this post, but there are clickable links to lots of images!

We spent yesterday morning at Tate Liverpool's Gustav Klimt exhibition. Very interesting - my first time to see Klimt's works, placed in context with works by members of the Vienna Secession and gesamtkustwerk ("the total art work or synthesis of the arts: life filled with art") architecture and applied arts works of the Wiener Werkstatte

Highly recommended. The exhibition finishes on August 31st! Try to get a 10a.m. ticket to avoid the crowds (easier parking too).

I'll add a few more thoughts to this post later, but for now, you can enjoy the virtual Klimt museum .

Without the wealthy industrialists who commissioned Klimt and his contemporaries (e.g. Josef Hoffman's architecture), it is hard to imagine these works ever existing... The timescale for the Wienner Werkstatte's existence is surprisingly short. It feels strange that these works were produced just 100 years ago. They feel modern but antique at the same moment. It is also impossible to see just how radical the interior designs, applied art and architecture were at the time. Interiors that would have looked very stark to contemporaries are preferable to modern taste. The exhibition could have done more to place the (once innovative) designs in context.

When I was studying art at sixth form college and art college, Klimt was never mentioned. My sixth form art tutor taught art history in a very linear way - Impressionists lead to Post Impressionists, Expressionists etc. Klimt and the Vienna Secession would have been disparaged as "decorative" and seen as a decadent dead end. Even in the 1980s there were few books available on Klimt (I had several second hand books published in the 1970s) and I bought the Taschen book on his work in German in 1989, guessing I'd be able to read German before the book was likely to be reprinted in English (wrong guess). One of my university art tutors gave me a Klimt poster he'd had when he was a student.

I've been surprised how popular Klimt has been as a source for patchwork and quilting fabric designs. However, little of my work reveals any Klimt style, as I'd moved away from his work as an influence by the time I started quilting. In retrospect, I prefer his landscapes to his "gold period" paintings.

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