Zoom Into Klimt's 'Design for a Theater Curtain for Karlsbad Municipal Theater'

By Belvedere

Belvedere, Wien

Design for a Curtain of the Municipal Theater Karlsbad (1884/1885) by Gustav KlimtBelvedere

This oil sketch by Gustav Klimt was a design for the curtain of the municipal theater in Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary). Around 1884, Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst Klimt, and their fellow student Franz Matsch—who worked together as an "artist-company"—received this commission.

Ferdinand Fellner (c. 1909) by Angerer, L.&V., AtelierAustrian National Library

The commission was given to the young artists by the Viennese architectural firm Fellner & Helmer, which specialized in erecting theater buildings throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The artists' company regularly supplied ceiling paintings and theater curtains for this architectural firm.

The new theater in Karlovy VaryAustrian National Library

After the concert hall in Karlsbad and the municipal theaters of Reichenberg (Liberec) and Fiume (Rijeka), the curtain for the municipal theater in Karlsbad was already the artists' company's fourth commission received from architects Fellner & Helmer.

Hans Makart (around 1870) by Josef LöwyAustrian National Library

The starting point for Gustav Klimt's design was undoubtedly the then acclaimed Viennese painter Hans Makart (1840–84). In the early 1870s he had designed two large curtains for Viennese theaters, which also served as a template for Klimt and his colleagues.

Design for a Curtain of the Municipal Theater Karlsbad (1884/1885) by Gustav KlimtBelvedere

Similar to Makart, Klimt shows the stage wall together with a painted red drape, which was not part of the actual curtain.

The scene presented may consist of a carnival procession that was probably influenced by mythology but cannot be determined in more detail.

In terms of style, Klimt uses elements of rococo. This was the style specified by architectural firm Fellner & Helmer for the interior design of the theater.

Klimt frames the center image with a rich rococo border, intricately structured with secondary and breakthrough images.

For the Karlsbad curtain, Klimt and his fellow painters integrated elements of architecture and framing into its composition for the first time. This would set the trend for the future development of all Vienna Secession artwork.

Credits: Story

Text: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere / Franz Smola

© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere


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