Book Review: Gustav Klimt, Art Nouveau Visionary

gustav artCome with me for a glimpse into the life of the exciting Austrian painter, Gustav Klimt.

The book is entitled “Gustav Klimt: Art Nouveau Visionary”, by Eva de Stafano, and it can be found in both the Prescott and Verde Campus Libraries. Klimt was born in Vienna, Austria in 1862. From 1876 until 1883, he attended the School of Arts and Crafts at the Museum of Art and Industry, studying various arts such as metalworking and mosaics. It was there that he learned to prepare his own paints and began painting. Klimt and his younger brother, Ernst, worked together with Franz Matsch on various commissions decorating public buildings, theaters, and some private castles in Vienna and other Austrian cities.

Even in some of these early works, Klimt crossed swords with the established art community, and despite controversy, he began to paint in a way that was uniquely his own. His art nouveau leanings became evident during this time, as he moved into what art historians have called his “symbolist” phase.

He was prominent in the “Secessionist” movement, between 1898 and 1905. This was basically a group of young artists who wanted to show their work in Vienna and were denied because the establishment was only interested in the status quo which at the time was based on classical art. The younger group – including Klimt – was experimenting with new ideas. Klimt, in particular, was highly influenced by Oriental art and its asymmetry, and by the Impressionists in their method of applying paint to the canvas. He was at odds with the established art community most of his painting life, but he also was recognized as an outstanding portrait painter and managed to make a success during his lifetime. He has only recently been rediscovered – especially his art nouveau paintings. Because of his success in his lifetime, he was able to continue challenging the more formal art and artists of his day.

This gorgeous book takes you through Klimt’s different styles and into his final combination of the realistic and the decorative, which he so loved. His women’s faces were absolutely exquisite, quite real, and their costumes or backgrounds were treated in a highly decorative manner – much like mosaics – with heavy use of gold. The pages of the book shine with the images he painted throughout his relatively short lifetime.

The Yavapai College Library on the Verde campus also has a delightfully large and colorful book entitled “Gustav Klimt” by Rachel Barnes. The Prescott campus has a DVD entitled “Klimt” from their “Impressionists” series. Check out one of these items soon!

By Patsy
By Patsy