Klimt's Studies for the Faculty Painting "Philosophy"

Albertina Museum

Gustav Klimt am Attersee (1904) by UnknownAustrian National Library

In 1894, Gustav Klimt and Franz Matsch were commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the University of Vienna's hall with allegories of the sciences. Klimt undertook "Philosophy," "Medicine," and "Jurisprudence". The intensive work on the three faculty paintings predominantly took place in the early years of the Secession, between 1897 and 1903.

Gustav Klimt's Painting "Philosophy" (um 1900) by Moriz NährAustrian National Library

"Philosophy" shows the mysterious vision of a humanity floating in the universe, left to its own fate. Here, nakedness becomes the elementary state of inner isolation and helplessness. As a draftsman, Klimt uncovered a radically modern approach to reproducing the human body.

Seated Woman with Head Propped (Study for oil sketch for "Philosophy") (1897-1898) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Historicism echoes in this drawing of a female thinker in Greek clothing.

Kneeling Nude of an Old Woman (Study for "Philosophy") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

In this drawing, Klimt combines a merciless depiction of old age with an expression of despair over mortality.

Male Nude with Outstretched Left Arm, Seen from Behind (Study for the transfer sketch for "Philosophy") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

In this figure of a man from behind who protects his family, the outline takes on a new role: it becomes a psychological boundary between the emotions of human beings and the surrounding emptiness.

Fragment of a Couple Embracing: Seated Male Nude, Seen from Behind (Study for "Philosophy") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

These intertwined lovers refer to procreation as the origin of human life. The figure of the perched man from behind is a symbol of melancholy and meditation that was common for Klimt.

Gustav Klimt's Painting "Philosophy" (um 1900) by Moriz NährAustrian National Library

In the painting, the study of the crouched male nude from behind corresponds to the figure springing from the head of "Knowledge" as a symbol of thought.

Male Nude with Outstretched Left Arm, Seen from Behind (Study for the transfer sketch for "Philosophy") (1898-1899) by Gustav KlimtAlbertina Museum

Klimt internalized the metaphysical state of limbo of his figures by depicting them in these studies without feet or support. These drawings take a key position in the modern depiction of human existence in "Vienna 1900".

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The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna

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