Beethoven Frieze: 1902
Klimt: 1862- 1918
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter. He was a founding member of the Vienna Secession movement. The Vienna Secession or the Union of Austrian Artists was formed in 1897 by Austrian artists. The Succession movement included painters, sculptors, and architects. The first president of the Secession was Gustav Klimt. There is not one concrete style that defines the artists who were members of the Vienna Secession.
Above the entrance to the Secession Building was entrance was inscribed, "To every age its art and to art its freedom". Secession artists were interested in art that was outside the strict confines of academic tradition. The Secessionist style was published in a magazine that the group published: Ver Sacrum.
Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten in Austria-Hungary, the second of seven children: three boys and four girls. He was raised in poverty and supported his entire family for all of his life. His father, Ernst Klimt was a gold engraver. Klimt is famous for his paintings, murals, and sketches. Klimt's primary subject was women.
A frieze is an architectural and interior design term. In interior design, the frieze of a room is the section of wall above the picture rail and under the moldings. A frieze can also be a lengthy painted, sculpted decoration that sits above eye-level. Frieze decor can be scenes in a series of panels. Frieze is made of plasterwork, or wood.
In 1902, Klimt painted the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition. The exhibition was in celebration of the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven in 1902.
The composer was a cult figure at that time. Klimt saw in Beethoven true genius.
He intended that it should last only for the duration of the exhibition and therefore applied the image directly to the walls, using light materials so that it could easily be taken down again. It was preserved until 1986.
Klimt used bare concrete in order to create as neutral a setting. The three painted walls of the frieze form a sequence. First long wall symbolizes: the eternal yearning for happiness; the sufferings of mankind. The end third wall symbolizes: inner hostile forces; Typhoeus the giant, whom gods battled; his daughters, the three Gorgons who symbolize lust, lechery, and anger. The longings of mankind fly over their heads. The second wall symbolizes human being’s eternal yearning for happiness.
The Beethoven Frieze met with mass rejection. Klimt was criticized for being too rigid. The figures were labeled revolting. Financially, the exhibition was a disaster.
Ironically, The Beethoven Frieze is on permanent display in the Vienna Secession Building, and the image on the Beethoven Frieze was the motif on the Austrian 100 euro The Secession Coin on 2004.
Today Klimt’s paintings sell for well over 100 million dollars.