Klimt's Autonomous Portraits (1897–1908)

In his drawings, Klimt continually worked on autonomous, mostly anonymous portraits from around 1895. He often tried to achieve an ideal type in these portraits, depending on the stylistic phase.

Portrait of a Lady with Cape and Hat (c. 1897-1898) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

The melancolically gazing face of a woman depicted using backlighting and the subtlest nuances shines out from dimly lit surroundings. With the overlapping, diffuse forms, a rich variety of graphic structures stands out.

Her fur cape shows hatching that extends from a central point and breaks off at angles.

Klimt himself considered the 1897–98 portrait to be very important. He featured it as a full page illustration in the edition of the magazine Ver Sacrum dedicated to him (March 1898).

The slightly curved vertical hatching of the backdrop and the delicately woven hair, slightly accented with red, strongly contrasts with the bright pillar of light.

Characteristic of the symbolism of the early Secession, the emphasis of this outstanding portrait is on conveying a mysterious mood.

Lady in Profile, with Hat (1904-1905) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

"Lady in Profile with Hat" emerged at the beginning of Klimt's Golden Style at around 1904/05. Characteristic of this phase are the metallically delicate pencil lines. The strict profile view appears to be mitigated by her fashionable features.

With a touch of intuition, Klimt establishes the decorative balance between the sparingly applied lines of the hat, veil, and shoulder, and the detailed depiction of the distinctive profile outline, facial features, and hair.

Dark accents emphasize the distinctly angular eye, pronounced brow, and miniature-like fragment of hair.

Lady with Plumed Hat (1908) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

"Lady with a Feathered Hat" from 1908 is considered to be a rare drawing equivalent to the main painted works of Klimt's Golden Style. In addition to the hypnotizing, staring expression of the Secessionist femme fatale this portrait has an element of modern fashion.

The work is based on the opposing transparency of the drawn sections and density of the painted parts. Her concisely stylized face and hair are effectively contrasted with the dark, cloudy areas of her feathered hat and clothing. The form of the hand stands out brightly as a blank spot.

A tense dynamic results between the finely produced facial features and loosely sketched ornamental pattern of the background. The asymmetric positioning of her hat, eyes, and collar is particularly refined. In red pencil, Klimt outlines the mouth and the border of the patterned backdrop. And with a thin brush in white gouache, he paints the finely spun gauze on her hat. The ambiguity between decorative rigidity and sensuous expression seems to be subjected to an inner program.

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Albertina Vienna

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