The full-color tome, published by Taschen, not only contains images of the Austrian Secessionist’s work in eye-popping detail, but the first compendium of Klimt’s written documents, including postcards! I thought I’d give a glimpse of this beautiful book through the postcards.
View of the Burgtheater
After art school, Gustav Klimt formed a studio with his brother Ernst and painter Franz Matsch. Their first major commission, in 1886, was to paint the ceiling and staircase walls of Vienna’s new Burgtheater. The original Burgtheater was founded in 1741, and Klimt rendered it in a painting:Interior View of the Old Burgtheater,1888
Watercolor and body color, heightened with gold
In this detail of a cartoon of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, you can see the team worked themselves into the scene! At the far right, Gustav is in a neck ruff, between Ernst (also in a ruff) and Franz Matsch in the hat.
Ernst Klimt married Helene Flöge, and had a daughter, also named Helene. Ernst died in 1892, and Gustav became the younger Helene’s guardian. Through his visits with her family, he formed a romantic relationship with her aunt, clothing reform couturier Emilie Flöge. In an open relationship, they remained partners for life.
Venice postcard from Gustave Klimt to Helene Klimt, May 4, 1899
Good morning, dear Lentschi!
Tell your lovely Mama, your beautiful aunts, your dear Grandmama, your dear Uncle Hermann again that I send my best regards to all, that I shall be in Vienna again on Saturday morning, that I very much look forward to seeing everyone again.
Portrait of Helene Klimt, 1898
Oil on board, approx. 23″ x 15″
Postcard from Gustav Klimt to Marie Zimmermann, June 14, 1899
“Mother was with me, please expect my letter in Graz.”
(Graz is the largest city in Austria after Vienna.)
Marie “Mizzi” Zimmermann began modeling for Klimt in 1897, and became one of his most significant lovers.
Postcard view of the Secession building from the Naschmarkt, c. 1900
Marie Zimmermann’s relationship with Klimpt drove her into a deeply depressive state once she became pregnant with their first child, Gustav. (Klimt’s second child to be named after him.) Things hardly lightened when their second son, Otto, born in June 1902, died in September of that year.
Klimt ended the relationship with Marie Zimmermann in 1903. Below is a postcard from that year, sent by Zimmermann’s mother, Katharina:
“Crossing the Channel from Ostend to Dover” postcard from Gustav Klimt to Emilie Flöge, April 30, 1906
Klimt and Flöge spent many summers at Austria’s Lake Attersee, in Litzelberg and Kammer, both marked in the lower lefthand corner of this postcard:
Left: Klimt and Flöge near Villa Paulick on Lake Attersee, 1909
Right: Klimt and Flöge, Lake Attersee, c. 1909. Heliogravure by friend Heinrich Böhler (Egon Schiele’s greatest patron)
“Klimt in his blue painter’s smock,” Lake Attersee, 1913. Lumière autochrome plate by Friedrich G. Walker. This is the only known color photograph of Klimt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an early photograph in color! However, the Lumière autochrome process did debut in 1907.
Left: “The house in Kammer on Lake Attersee where Gustav Klimt spent his summer vacation,” 1909. Heliogravure by Heinrich Böhler.
Right: Farmhouse in Kammer on Lake Attersee (Mill), 1901. Oil on canvas 2.5′ x 2.5′
Left: Kammer Castle on Lake Attersee IV, 1910
Right: Kammer Castle on Lake Attersee II, 1909
Postcard of Church in Unterach on Lake Attersee
Toledo, Spain postcard from Gustav Klimt and fellow painter Carl Moll to Josef Hoffmann, October 1909
Josef Hoffman was the founder of the Weiner Werkstätte, the center for Secessionist artists, designers and architects in Vienna.
The book’s translation of the postcard is most confusing:
“Spain and Moll utterly unsuited to ‘nightlife’, Gustav. Squares are out; naturalistic is trumps. Affectionate regards, Carl.”
I think the first line is jokingly saying, “Neither Spain nor Moll know how to party–Gustav”
I think the second line is Moll’s impression of the Spanish art world, as if to say, “No one’s doing Cubism anymore, it’s all naturalistic.”
This postcard is from Klimt and Flöge’s first trip to the Salzburg resort town of Bad Gastein (“Bad” meaning spa). They’d return every year until Klimt’s death in 1918.
Emma Bacher-Paulick was a relative of either Klimt or Flöge in some unspecified way. It was her family’s Villa Paulick where the couple usually stayed on Lake Attersee. (See the earlier rowboat photograph.) In 1911, she married Richard Teschner, a prolific artist in Vienna’s art nouveau circle best known for his Javanese shadow puppet theater!
To Klimt’s brother-in-law, Julius Zimpel, July 11, 1912
“Beautiful scenery–a lot of rain–rain almost every day–good air–am well.”