Death and Life (1910/15) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum
Everything that has a beginning, has an ending.
Death is a part of life and lurks maliciously, ready to strike at any time. In this artwork, the extreme color contrasts convey a disturbing allegory of the ephemeral and cyclic nature of existence.
On the left, painted in gloomy violet-blue shades and wrapped in a long cloak of crosses and circles, death appears lonely and skeletal.
On the right, we find life instead: a harmonious tangle of naked bodies, who are separated and brought together by geometric motifs. These motifs symbolize the magma of vital energy, where existence is depicted at every stage:
a dreaming mother with her child is surrounded by joyful girls, so to embody the magical bliss of maternity and youth.
As their counterpart and inevitable fate, we see an old woman, looking yellow-faced and resigned.
Whereas below a sculptural male figure holds a young woman and, at the same time, finds solace in her. The only dream of eternity we have left, the only way we can escape death, is love.
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