Gustav Klimt's Portraits in the Leopold Museum

Leopold Museum

Seated Young Girl (1894) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

In his early work, Klimt aspired to achieve the greatest possible level of realism. This was clear, for example, in the cycles of furnishings for the Vienna Burgtheater and the Kunsthistorische Museum. However, it was also expressed in some of the portraits from around that time.

In the portrait of an elegantly dressed girl, Klimt pushes realism so far that the picture almost looks like a photograph. This impression is even created by the unusual small format of the piece alone.

In details barely visible to the naked eye, he captures the girl's vivid facial expression.

He also depicts in detail the splendidly shining silk dress of the girl portrayed.

In this work, Klimt celebrates a miniature painting technique demonstrating the near virtuosity of his outstanding painting ability. However, Klimt would soon say farewell again to this fine painting method and turn to a late-Impressionist style of painting.

Blind Man (1896) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

Klimt completed several commissions for male portraits in the 1890s. Studies of anonymous male portraits including "The Blind Man" also emerged around the same time. Depictions of men are rarely found in Klimt's oeuvre, and are limited to the artist's early years.

First Exhibition of Vienna Secession (1898)Austrian National Library

Klimt evidently thought that "The Blind Man" had a high level of artistic value, as he displayed it alongside four other paintings at the first exhibition of the Vienna Secession in 1898. The work was also featured in the magazine "Ver Sacrum".

Blind Man (1896) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

Klimt places the person portrayed against a bright side light which clearly reveals the deep ridges and furrows of the face. He is an impressive character, with his graceful and upright posture and magnificent white crown of hair.

The loose brushstrokes and soft, somewhat diffuse application of color come close to elements of Impressionistic design. This presentation method is in direct contrast to the precise photo-realistic style of painting featured in Klimt's then-recent works.

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