Kiimt and Cohorts in
“Judith” (1901), by Gustav Klimt. © Belvedère, Vienna. © Conception graphique: Serge Perraudin-Grapholon.com
The centerpiece of the exhibition “In the Time of Klimt: The Vienna Secession” at the Pinacothèque de Paris is a copy of the artist’s monumental Beethoven frieze depicting floating genies, a knight in shining armor, a giant Typhoeus monster from Greek mythology, a choir of angels and a nude couple locked in an erotic embrace. The copy was made about 30 years ago with the original techniques used by the artist when he made it for a 1902 tribute to Beethoven. Since then, the 32-meter-long reproduction, weighing 4 tons, has been traipsing around Europe in traveling exhibitions, including this one in Paris. The original can be seen in the basement of the Secession building in the Austrian capital.
I can’t say that the Pinacothèque, with its somewhat cramped space, is the ideal venue for such a display; you would be better off getting a flight to see the original in Vienna. Nevertheless, it does permit the viewer to examine up close the painted-plaster gesso technique and its appliqué gold-and-colored-glass ornamentation.
The exhibition, recycled from last year’s Klimt show in Milan, is evidently part of an outreach program organized by Vienna’s Belvedere, owner of the definitive collection of paintings by the Austrian artist.
The Belvedere has loaned a cross section of works to illustrate what was happening in the art world in the final years of the ethnically diverse Austro-Hungarian Empire, before it collapsed at the end of World War I. Several portraits of Emperor Franz-Joseph haughtily greet the visitor on the way in.
The show presents a worthwhile introduction to the subject of the Secession movement and the multidisciplinary Gesamtkunstwerk (a work using many art forms) approach to arts and crafts, involving architecture, music, painting, theater design and costume.
A few examples of furniture are on display, along with impressively detailed original designs for Secessionist architect Otto Wagner’s landmark Postsparkasse building. Vienna being the home of Sigmund Freud, reference is also made to new discoveries in the field of psychoanalysis, with some early editions of his work on show.
This leads to a section about the emergence of symbolism, expressionist art and reflections on sexuality, one of Klimt’s favorite themes. His painting “Judith” (1901) reveals the artist’s extraordinary decorative skill as well as his penchant for erotic subjects and references to ancient legends.
Don’t expect to see a show consisting mainly of works by Klimt. The exhibition is filled out with works by other artists, including Carl
“Birchwood at Dusk” (c. 1902), by Carl Moll. © Belvedere, Vienna
Moll, Koloman Moser, Josef Engelhart, Tina Blau, Theodor von Hörmann and Klimt’s lesser-known younger brother Ernst. Egon Schiele is represented by several drawings and small pictures, which again should be seen as a taster in advance of a visit to the real thing at the Belvedere in Vienna.
Pinacothèque de Paris: 8 Rue Vignon, 75008 Paris. Métro: Madeleine. Tel.: 01 42 68 02 01. Open daily 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday). Admission: €14. Through June 21, 2015. www.pinacotheque.com
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