Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair

Gustav Klimtabout 1901 - 1902

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Gustav Klimt's favored working practice was somewhat unorthodox: he employed a number of nude models who lounged around his studio striking spontaneous poses, which he captured with a few exquisitely economical strokes of chalk or pencil. Many such life studies remained independent works of art, but others inspired paintings. These sketches of a kneeling woman, her generous buttocks thrust toward the viewer and her luxuriant hair cascading around her head as if caught by a current of air or water, ultimately served as preparatory drawings for the foreground figure in Klimt's painting Goldfish (now in the Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Switzerland). In the finished painting, the nude retains this pose but turns her head to gaze impudently over her shoulder; Klimt initially titled it "To my critics" in reference to the controversy over three highly erotic murals he painted for the University of Vienna which had been attacked by the conservative press. The fluid, stylized treatment of the model's body and hair, which verges on abstraction, suggests his enduring identification of women with water--unbounded, immaterial and elusive--a common motif in his work. Although this drawing served as a study for another work, Klimt seems to have considered it a work of art in its own right. Not only did he sign it, he also published a reproduction of the right-hand figure in the Vienna Secession periodical Ver Sacrum in 1902; faint red pencil marks--cropping indications for the photographer--frame the figure. The drawing is housed in a facsimile of a frame designed by Klimt himself, exemplifying his commitment to the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art).

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