’Golden boy’ Gustav Klimt on show in Amsterdam with his role models

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Gustav Klimt's "Water Serpents II" (1904) is among the works taken from around the world for a retrospective of the Viennese artist in the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam. Photo: HomeArt/Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam/dpa

The iconic golden paintings of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) are being shown in a new light in the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam, where works of the Austrian painter shared from around the world can be seen alongside those of artists who inspired him.

”[The exhibition] doesn’t present him as a lone genius, but rather as a man whose work came into being and flourished thanks to the inspiration offered by international kindred spirits,” Emilie Gordenker, director of the Van Gogh Museum, said in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

In cooperation with Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, a total of 36 works by Klimt will be on display from Friday, as well as about 40 more works by his idols, such as Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Rodin, Edward Munch, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet – contemporaries who, like Klimt, also radically broke conventions and sought renewal. 

On display in Amsterdam until January, the “Golden Boy Gustav Klimt” exhibition will later move to Vienna’s Belvedere Museum in early 2023.

According to Gordenker, many of the works on display, mainly from private collections, are only rarely lent out. These include “Judith” (1901), “Emilie Flöge” (1902) and “Wasserschlangen II” (1904), which is on public view for the first time in 60 years. These are paintings from the Art Nouveau painter’s period marked by his strong use of gold leaf.

Klimt, co-founder of the Vienna Secession art movement in 1897, is often remembered for his beautiful, ornamental works, but a closer look shows they are also multi-layered paintings that repeatedly deal with themes such as love, death, longing and the search for happiness. 

The expressive colour palette of van Gogh, for example, inspired Klimt for his own portraits. But one also sees a kinship with the Impressionist Claude Monet in the mysterious, melancholy landscape paintings.

During his visit to Paris in 1909, Klimt became acquainted with the works of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Henri Matisse. Their influence can be seen startlingly in his own large portraits of women. 

Among the central exhibits is “The Bride”, an unfinished work. The painting was on the easel in his studio when Klimt died suddenly in 1918. © dpa / Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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