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Tod und Leben

Gustav Klimt1910

Leopold Museum

Leopold Museum

The human surge on the painting’s right side conveys a vibrant and hopeful impression. Naked bodies are huddled together and surrounded by a colorful abundance of flowers and ornamentation. The young women along with the mother and child dream of happiness, while the elderly lady and lovers seem weighed down by their fate. Perhaps the latter have an inkling about Death, who is swathed in decorative garments hovering on the picture’s left side. In a bold composition, the image represents a universal allegory through which the Viennese artist exemplified the cycle of human life. He completed Death and Life in 1911 and was awarded the first prize of the 1911 International Art Exhibition in Rome. For unknown reasons, Klimt decided to rework the painting in 1915. The figure of Death, in particular, was fundamentally altered. He also added figures to the mass of people and repainted the background.

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