Klimt's Studies for Female Portraits (1897–1904)

Albertina Museum

Woman Sitting in an Armchair (Study for the portrait "Sonja Knips") (1897-1898) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Sonja Knips

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With his 1898 painted portrait of Sonja Knips, Klimt set the start for his famous portraits of ladies of modern Viennese society. Klimt already knew this affluent young member of the nobility early on, and she had been a particular fan of the modern endeavors of the Secession from the outset. Not only was the square format new for Klimt, just as novel was the concept of working in series of sheets of packing paper cut to the same size.

Woman Sitting in an Armchair (Study for the portrait "Sonja Knips") (1897-1898) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

In one of the studies for the portrait, he captures the sitter seated in an armchair with energetically flowing contours. He fixes the figure in the plane and cuts off the chair and skirt with the edges of the sheet, thus creating the dialectic of proximity and distance characteristic of his work: the figure presented is tangibly close and yet separated from the viewer.

The fingers clutching the armrest are particularly accentuated.

The chiaroscuro is also effective. The strongest example is the jawline supported by the ruff.

The depiction of fashionable clothing, harmonizing with the sitter's nature, played a major role in these drawn studies and would be applied to future portrait commissions as well.

Woman Standing Facing Slightly left, with Right Arm Akimbo (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Serena Lederer

Serena Lederer (after 1903) by Martin GerlachAustrian National Library

The person portrayed and her husband, the industrialist August Lederer, were two of the artist's closest friends and patrons.

Serena Pulitzer Lederer (1867–1943) (1899) by Gustav KlimtThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Woman Standing Facing Front, with Arms Dangling (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

In all sheets the young woman standing upright is wearing the flowing, delicately pleated dress that she also wears in the painting.

Woman Standing Facing Slightly Left, with Arms Dangling (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

The series of studies for the 1899 painted portrait "Serena Lederer" demonstrates Klimt's working methods. This drawing, for example, has an enlargement grid. However, it still does not match the final version.

Woman Standing Facing Slightly Left, with Arms Dangling (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

He experimented with the effect of the reform dress flowing with fine folds multiple times. These studies are dominated by a tension-filled balance between the vertical sweep of very thin, parallel flowing lines and the rectangular paper.

Woman Standing Facing left, with Chair (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Here, Klimt introduces a method that would frequently be used in future. He allows the standing figure to extend across the full length of the paper in such a way that—in most cases at least—it slightly overlaps the top and bottom edges.

Woman Standing Facing Slightly Left, with Arms Dangling (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

This trick results in an ambiguous effect in which the figure is anchored in the plane while at the same time seeming to float in a vacuum.

Woman Standing Facin Front, wih Her Left Raised (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Woman Standing Facing Front with Both Hands on Her Waist (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

The focus is on the weightlessness of the figure, whose facial features are only cursorily indicated.

Woman Standing Facing Slightly Left, with Arms Dangling (Study for the portrait "Serena Lederer") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

In chronological order, the sheets of the Albertina Museum appear like a filmstrip. A whole spectrum of body and arm positions, variously accentuated poses, and changing flows of lines unfold.

Standing Woman, Leaning on a Chair (Study for the portrait "Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann") (1900-1901) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann

The lady portrayed was in her second marriage to the industrialist Ludwig Friedmann. She was around 36 years old when Gustav Klimt painted her portrait.

Standing Woman, Leaning on a Chair (Study for the portrait "Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann") (1900-1901) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

In the transfer sketch for the privately owned portrait of Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann first presented in 1901, Klimt outlines the intricately twisted figure with strongly stylized lines.

Klimt emphasizes her dark clothing with long parallel hatching of various density and thickness, out of which the blank area of her décolletage gleams emphatically - as it does in the painting.

A continuous line rhythm is used for the boa around her shoulders and her dress to almost organically combine the two. This emphatically illuminates the recessed area of the décolletage, as in the painting.

Woman Sitting in a Chair (Study for the portrait "Marie Henneberg") (1901) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Marie Henneberg

Portrait of Marie Henneberg (1901/1902) by Gustav KlimtOriginal Source: Kulturstiftung Sachsen‑Anhalt – Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale)

Marie Henneberg was married to the physicist Hugo Henneberg. Her portrait in particular reveals the divergence between the artist's impressionist painting technique and his linear drawing style.

Woman Sitting in a Chair (Study for the portrait "Marie Henneberg") (1901) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Klimt attempted to work out the connection between the figure and the chair through various systems of lines, which he sharply distinguished in several parallel layers of space.

Woman Sitting in a Chair (Study for the portrait "Adele Bloch-Bauer I") (1903-1904) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Adele Bloch-Bauer

Female portrait after Gustav Klimt, plate 28, The work of Gustav Klimt (1918) by Gustav KlimtMAK – Museum of Applied Arts

Woman Sitting in a Chair (Study for the portrait "Adele Bloch-Bauer I") (1903-1904) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Most of the energetically flowing studies for Klimt's "Golden Adele" were created in 1903 in black chalk. This drawing from 1904 is one of his earliest experiments with the metallic sharpness of his pencil.

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The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna

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