Sunflower (1907/1908) by Gustav KlimtBelvedere
The painting shows a magnificent sunflower in its natural environment, probably on the Attersee in Salzkammergut. Klimt returned there each summer for a few weeks to relax. The flower towers before a green wall of leaves, perhaps a hedge or dense bush.
Instead of creating a seemingly random impression of nature, Klimt places the sunflower prominently and precisely in the center of this painting.
It stands over a crowded group of colorful meadow flowers, which form an impressive pedestal for the solitary sunflower.
The sunflower clearly hints at a human shape. Art writer Ludwig Hevesi seems to confirm this impression, writing in 1907 that Klimt's sunflower appears "like a love-struck fairy, whose greenish-gray robes flow down with passionate tremors."
Klimt may have been thinking about his partner Emilie Flöge in this depiction. On the Attersee, she often wore dresses she designed herself in the reform style.
On a metaphorical level, the design of the sunflower may certainly be associated with Emilie Flöge. The self-contained portrayal of the beautiful-yet-lonely flower could correspond to the lifelong relationship between herself and Klimt that was never clearly defined.
Text: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere / Franz Smola
© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere