Klimt the Late Deliverer

Klimt was notoriously well known for not delivering his works at the agreed time. He regularly tried his clients' patience to the utmost. It was not as if he would be left short of work. On the contrary, he was an extremely diligent painter, who meticulously ensured that nothing would distract him from his work.

But he was constantly tormented by doubts about his own artistic performance. For example, after working for many weeks or even months on a portrait, he still would not be convinced that he had given the picture the right effect. His clients often had no other option but to literally prise the image they had ordered from his hands.

Gustav Klimt standing in his garden in front of his studio, Moriz Nähr, 1911-05, From the collection of: Austrian National Library
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If an order ran over a longer period of time, Klimt would often lose interest in it, or at least complain that he could not come up with the right ideas. This was the case, for instance, when he designed the mosaic frieze for the dining room of the Stoclet family in Brussels. Klimt was awarded the contract in 1905, but hardly worked on it in the years that followed. In 1910, however, the palace was already largely completed, so it was essential that the mosaic frieze be completed as well.

Palais Stoclet, dining room, From the collection of: Austrian National Library
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The many artisans who had been commissioned to implement Klimt's design in the form of a highly sophisticated and technical mosaic of marble, glass, metal, and enamel, were already waiting impatiently for Klimt's finished design. Klimt found the job increasingly troublesome due to the fact he was running out of time. In the midsummer of 1909, precisely on July 21, he wrote to Emilie Flöge from Vienna. She was already on summer vacation at Attersee. He described how laborious the work on the frieze designs was: "Messing around like an idiot here in Vienna … I'm half here, half there, nothing quite finished. It's like Stoclet is draining from me via the abscess on my neck." On July 27, Klimt wrote further: "I just have to get away on Friday. I'll go search in the country, anywhere, to get this Brussels trash finished. I just have to do it."

Emilie Flöge, Gustav Klimt and Eleonore Zimpel in Litzlberg at the Attersee, 1905, From the collection of: Belvedere
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In the end, he had no choice but to take his great designs along with him to Attersee, where he joined Emilie on vacation, and continued working there.

Credits: Story

Text: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere / Franz Smola

© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere


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