Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats



A New World Stage

Fin-de-siecle in Vienna



I love those first timid caresses,
half questioning, yet already
     half trusting,
they crackle with red sparks
     of seduction
and shoot sheaves of gold
     into the fiery night.

Stefan Zweig, from Silver Strings, 1901


In 1900 Vienna was the glittering hub of the

Austro-Hungarian Empire and the world capital of Fin-de-siecle culture. Tradition reigned supreme in the city of waltzes and coffeehouses. Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, the immortal three in music, had lived here. Since the Habsburgs had made it their capital centuries before, all the currents of European culture and civilisation converged in Vienna. A harmony of contrasts, ''It was lovely to live here", wrote Stefan Zweig, "for, unconsciously, every person in the city became a sophisticate, a cosmopolitan". The charm of turn-of-the-century Vienna worked its magic on poets and authors, musicians and artists; the city was full of famous faces such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arnold Schonberg and Gustav Mahler, who all adored it. Yet, an era was drawing to a close, overshadowed by the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Still elegant, the boulevards of Vienna were growing shabby. The clouds of war were gathering on the horizon. The flower of Viennese Jugendstil was in late bloom and the golden age was fading.

Gustav Klimt was regarded as the leading Viennese painter of his day. A goldsmith's son, he founded the "Vienna Secession" in defiance of academic painting. As eclectic as the city itself, Klimt's aesthetic embraced such superficially disparate elements as jin-ie-swclt elegance and sensuousness and Byzantine icons and mosaics. Moreover, he incorporated elements of East Asian and ancient Egyptian art in his work. He lavishly bestowed symbolic ornament and decoration on his works, making the surfaces of his pictures glitter with the colours of jewels — cornflower sapphires and amethysts, alexandntes and pearls on a rich gold ground.

Influenced by the writings of his fellow Viennese, Sigmund Freud, Klimt painted sensuous and sumptuous pictures, which aroused the ire of the critics. His work was condemned as "obscene", yet, all he did was revel in luxury and beauty with a suggestion of the physical pleasures in life, freed from the constraints of nineteenth-century inhibitions. His masterpiece, The Kiss, is a celebration of beauty and eroticism. Some might view it as a manifesto of decadence. In retrospect, Klimt's oeuvre seems to reflect one of the last dreams of innocence before the horrors of war set in.


Gustav Klimt
The Kiss


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