Klimt, Death and Life

Klimt was an artist who could convey, through the means of powerful allegory and symphonic patterns of colour and line, the deep, enduring and universal elements of humanity. Death, love, hope, aging, birth, romantic bliss, all of these things that make us human, he captured in his breathtakingly beautiful art. Though it is so deeply human in its subject, his painting transports you by way of its delicate, sumptuous, glowing, glitteringly patterned surfaces and allegorical figures to a higher realm. In Death and Life, life in all its forms is presented through the guise of a family. Every age is present – from the newborn baby to the grandmother, while on the far left lurks the looming blue-cloaked specter of the grim reaper. Yet, this swirling, vital throng of life shines in the face of this figure, its luminous colour and blissful, radiant aura making it clear that in life, the power of love will always remain stronger than death. 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     Death and Life , 1915. Leopold Museum, Vienna. 

Death and Life, 1915. Leopold Museum, Vienna. 

This year marks the centenary of Klimt’s death. If you are going to Vienna this spring and are a Klimt-lover (if you are not you should be), the city will be filled with a once in a lifetime array of his work: the Kunsthistorisches has erected a ‘Stairway to Klimt’ bringing you up close to his murals high above the museum’s grand staircase; the Leopold Museum has a retrospective of his work, along with his fellow Austrian, Expressionist Egon Schiele who also died in 1918; and the stately Belvedere, home of Klimt’s most famous work, The Kiss, has another exhibition Beyond Klimt: New Horizons in Central Europe.  

Words by Annabel Matterson, The Iris Letter February 2018.