Klimt's Studies for the Painting "Death and Life"

Death and Life (1910/15) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

In the painting Death and Life, Death—a permanent fixture in Klimt's pessimistic allegories—becomes the main actor for the first time. At his full height, he emphatically opposes the human tower of "Life".

Head of an old Woman seen from the front (Study for "Death and Life") (1908-1909) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Each figure in the group is carefully drafted, such as the head of the old woman.

Bowed Male Head (Study for "Death and Life") (1908-1909) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

The head of the man bending over his wife—which seems to break out of the sheet—noticeably protects her while also contemplating in a state of melancholy. The sheet is one of the 1908/09 drawn studies for the first version of the painting (1910/11). Klimt's expressive and spatial rendition of the man's face is an early sign of developments to come.

Death and Life (First Version) (1910/1911) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

First version of Klimt's painting "Death and Life".

Bowed Male Head (Study for "Death and Life") (1908-1909) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

The man in this study, whose inclined face is largely referenced by Klimt in the oil version, apparently wears a kimono, albeit only sketchily indicated. As in the painting, his sunken visage drawn with bold lines also appears to break out from the surface of the drawing. This expresses his pensive mood all the more effectively.

Seated Nude (1909-1910) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

A series of nude studies was produced for the woman in the pair of lovers in Death and Life. In them, Klimt tried out many variants of the motif of the mourning figure lost in thought with her head bent. He referred back to these drawings about a year later in a series of autonomous studies of seated nudes and semi-nudes. The drawing of a peaceful, seated figure facing the viewer can be seen in this context.

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The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna

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