Mother with Two Children (Family) (1909/1910) by Gustav KlimtBelvedere
This painting is surprising in that it shows an unfamiliar side to Klimt's presentation style. The work has no decorative elements, and no gold colors or other flattering tones are shown. Instead, it is restricted to largely uniform blacks.
The clear differentiation between the brightly modeled skin of the faces and the dark colors of the other layers creates the impression that the sculpted heads of the people are protruding out of the two-dimensional black sections like islands.
However, Klimt also worked with such formal contrasts in the portraits of women he recently produced, which include "Fritza Riedler" and "Adele Bloch-Bauer I." But in these portraits, the two-dimensional parts are filled with rich ornamentation and gold layers.
Nevertheless, the dark background is not completely empty. The rectangular field above the mother with colors contrasting with the background is most likely a window…
…and the supposed piece of furniture on the left side of the picture is probably a cupboard with glass panels.
Nothing more is known about the identity of the subjects. Klimt may be reflecting his impressions of his own family circumstances in this private, intimate scene of a sleeping young mother and her two, also sleeping, children.
We know that in 1899 Klimt's models Maria Ucicka and Marie Zimmermann each gave birth to a son, both of whom were named Gustav. They were ten years old when the painting "Family" was created. Klimt constantly kept in touch with them and their mothers.
Text: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere / Franz Smola
© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere