This painting is among the most enigmatic in Klimt's oeuvre and firmly in the Symbolist tradition. An unidentified woman is shown in partial profile and cloaked in black. Her hair, hat, and garment flow seamlessly together in a sinuous swathe of dark oil paint. Her closed eyes are a cue that she is resting in quiet contemplation while sitting on a chair or settee, the contours of which are conveyed by the off-white shape in the lower right corner of the canvas. Her pale face is sharply defined by a pointy nose and firm chin, but her pink lips hint at a latent sensuality beneath her melancholic appearance. A curling tendril that has escaped her coiffure gently frames her face and softens the overall impression. This painting confirms Klimt's familiarity with the Dutch artist Jan Toorop, whose work was shown in Vienna on several occasions between 1899 and 1902. The snippet of a checkerboard pattern visible in the upper right corner underscores Klimt's ties with the Vienna Secession and its modernist protagonists.


  • Title: Pale Face
  • Creator: Gustav Klimt
  • Date Created: 1903
  • Physical Dimensions: 80 x 40 cm
  • Provenance: Gustav Klimt, 1903 to 1905 or 1906; Galerie Miethke, Vienna, consigned by the above, May 1905 or 1906; Hans Böhler, Vienna, acquired from the above, September 24, 1906; Galerie Neumann, Vienna, probably consigned by the above, 1955-1956; Bruce Goff, Kansas City, acquired from the above, 1956-1981; Galerie St. Etienne, New York, acquired from the above, 1981; Private Collection, New York, acquired from the above, September 1981-2012; Neue Galerie New York. This work is part of the collection of Estée Lauder and was made available through the generosity of Estée Lauder, 2012
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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