Old Man on his Death-Bed (around 1899) by Gustav KlimtBelvedere
The portrait shows an old man on his deathbed, which was an unusual depiction for Gustav Klimt. It is presumably a portrait of Hermann Flöge. He was the father-in-law of Klimt's brother Ernst, who had passed away earlier, and the father of Emilie Flöge whom Klimt had been friends with for many years. Hermann Flöge was the owner of a factory that produced tobacco pipes. These were made out of a material that was popular at the time: meerschaum, a sepiolite mineral. However, he died in 1897. Why the portrait was only created three years after his death is unclear.
Klimt likely created this portrait of a deceased man based on a photograph.
The contrast between the precise facial features and the cloudy and blurred background areas is characteristic of Klimt's painting style during those years.
To depict the man on his deathbed, however, Klimt chose delicate and slightly blurred brush strokes. Contours are often only hinted at, and some details are painted so delicately and finely they appear like a daydream.
Text: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere / Franz Smola
© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere