The Virgins - 1913
Gustav Klimt: 1862-1918
Gustav Klimt was a portraitist, a painter of landscapes, and a draughtsman of women. The abstract, illusion and decoration, created a perfect balance between the subject and the surrounding glamorous atmosphere in which they existed.
The son of a goldsmith, Klimt acquired a reputation in the ultra traditional art world with his allegorical paintings in the Burgtheater and Kunsthistorisches Museum. Together with his contemporaries, he formed the Vienna Secession in 1897.
Klimt believed no one had the right to neither limit artistic freedom nor censor art in any way. Those beliefs made him one of the first real Modern Artists who influenced later American and European movements and schools of artists. This belief is evident today in the broad range of styles and artists in Modern and Post Modern Art.
In 1911, the Stoclet Friezes were installed permanently in the Stoclet mansion in Brussels Belgium. Paintings of this period are comprised of mélanges in soft color. Paintings of this style are: the portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912), Mada Primavesi (1912) and The Virgins (1913).
In 1913, in Munich Switzerland, Klimt premiered The Virgins, and held an extra exhibition in Budapest Hungary. In 1914, the artist exhibited The Virgins in Prague, with the Secession Group of artists.
The decline of the use of gold colour in Klimt’s later period, meant Klimt evolved in his work: replacing his trademark patterned rectangular symbols with flowers, paring down the ornate decor, making women look taller, and using a model's real likeness and personality which was seldom done by Klimt before.
The Virgins contains multiple flowers, which add to the theme: evolution into womanhood. While sketching for the painting, Klimt wanted his models to make larger than life physical poses. There are five women in the painting (or one woman with four sides to her persona) and all of them seem to be intertwined. Klimt’s influences are easy to spot: Greek ( the exaltation and worship of women ) , Minoan ( bronze colour) , Egyptian( regal elegance ) and Byzantine ( tile-like lines) . The lines are clear and the human themes of love, sexuality and regeneration are obvious in the circular cyclical shape of the work.
In painting The Virgins. Klimt used colour; the kaleidoscopic interior is the puzzle of life. The different life stages are represented by the same woman. Dislocated body parts in outrageous poses move as if under water. The empty shell of a woman's dress at the bottom gives birth to a child (the next generation) via a cascading waterfall of colour.