Gustav Klimt and Vienna through the lens of psychoanalysis
An aesthetic revolution,
under the control of the almighty feminine
Gustav Klimt and Sigmund Freud were born into the genius of the Viennese Fin de siècle, and their works are mutually illuminating.
1. The Viennese context around 1900
The conservatives' young favourite
At the age of thirty-five, Gustav Klimt was the most prominent painter in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; three years later, his new public projects were causing discord. The brutality of this metamorphosis reflects the intellectual effervescence of Vienna in 1900, which had become the most disruptive and innovative medical, literary, philosophical and musical scene in Europe.
2. The Vienna Secession
The Vienna Secession was founded by a group of around forty academic artists, with Gustav Klimt as its president. Klimt designed the poster for its first exhibition, a mythological image that psychoanalysis reveals to be a sulphurous proposition.
3. The University Paintings
The University Paintings
The Nazi retreat from Austria resulted in the loss of three masterpieces by Gustav Klimt, known as the University Paintings. They had not been exhibited in their intended location, the University of Austria, because of the scandal they would have caused, as Klimt had chosen to have the allegories of the Faculties of Medicine, Philosophy and Jurisprudence embodied by malicious temptresses.
4. Beethoven Frieze and Stoclet Palace
The Beethoven Frieze and the decoration of the Stoclet Palace
After the scandal of the University Paintings, Klimt accepted only private commissions, free from any ethical or political constraints. A psychoanalytical analysis of these works concludes that they systematise the triumph of a primitive femininity.
Readings Jacques Le Rider, Modernity and Crises of Identity: Culture and Society in Fin–de–Siècle Vienna, Continuum Intl Pub Group, 1993 Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, Politics and Culture, Alfred A. Knopf, 1981