Klimt probably received the commission to paint a portrait of Marie Breunig, the wife of the owner of a large Viennese bakery, around 1894. The large-format portrait is undoubtedly the high point of a style the master artist used in the early 1890s. This style demonstrates an astonishing accuracy in Klimt's depiction of reality—a particular passion for detail which seems almost hyperrealistic in places. In fact, we can safely assume that Klimt used a photograph to help with this portrait. However, Klimt's painted portrait is different to a photograph through its extraordinary level of exaggeration and refinement of the reality depicted. Klimt's painted portrait reaches another level of illusion beyond a simple photograph. The contrast between the porcelain-white skin of the lady and the deep black of her clothing against a neutral background seems to be particularly delicately and neatly painted in this picture. The portrait is the first in a large series of female portraits Klimt would complete in the following years, even becoming a signature feature of his art.


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