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Klimt in a Light Blue Smock by Egon Schiele, 1913

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Self Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant by Egon Schiele, 1912

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The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, 1907-08

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Death and the Maiden by Egon Schiele, 1915

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The Cardinal and the Nun (Caress) by Egon Schiele, 1912

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Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt, 1907

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Portrait of Gerti Schiele by Egon Schiele ,1909

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Hope II by Gustav Klimt, 1907

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Self Portrait as Saint Sebastian by Egon Schiele, 1914

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David Bowie 1979 Lodger

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Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Emilie Floge compared to Hermès fall 2012 piece
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Klimt's The Kiss compared to Aquilano Rimondi spring 2011 piece.


During the Turn of the century in Vienna, Austria two artists approached many of the same subject matters in drastically different ways. Shifting views on vanity, sex, and morality standards like every social movement, were first approached by new edgy artists. Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele are known most for being leaders of movements like the Vienna Secession, Art deco, and Abstract expressionism. They often collaborated on similar topics but approached them with different views. Schiele’s frank gritty style contrasts with the elegant gilding and patterning of Klimt’s famous works even though they often approached the same topics. The both went to Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) in Austria and Klimt mentored Schiele. Schiele sought out Gustav Klimt, who generously mentored younger artists. Klimt took a particular interest in the young Schiele, buying his drawings, offering to exchange them for some of his own, arranging models for him and introducing him to potential patrons. They both lived during a time of violent upheaval in Austria. The First World War brought violence and the disassembling of classical social values that they embraced in their art, at the time some works were found overly disturbing but in retrospect have gained appreciation.

Klimt and Schiele approached many topics in the same way but they did differ on views of vanity. Schiele is best known for his numerous self portraits made during his short career. He only lived to 28 when he died of Spanish influenza (Glover). In contrast Klimt made none. One portrait of Klimt exists that Schiele made of his mentor but none that Klimt made of himself (Gustav Klimt Biography). He stated In a writing called Commentary on a non-existent self-portrait, "I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women... There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night... Who ever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures" (Whiteford). The portrait, Gustav Klimt in the Blue Smock, is a pencil and water color image that focuses on the head and shoulders leaving the body in vague gestural marks. The smock Klimt is wearing was a quintessential part of his appearance. His body resembling Klimt, with his raised forehead, beard, and thick neck. It also strongly adopts the Schiele style and features in the spidery spread out hands, elongated facial features, and large eyes (leopold ). Schiele made tons of self portraits but his best known one is Self Portrait with Chinese lantern plant. In the portrait like many he confidently gazes directly at the viewer. This one is significantly less abstractly distorted than many of his others but it isn't idealized: scars, bruises, and irritation still are shown on his face (Egon Schiele Biography).

Schiele and Klimt frequently used the same compositions in works. The piece The Kiss by Klimt is one of his best known works; Schiele has several pieces made between 1908 and 1914 with the same composition and subject. The Kiss is known world round for its passionate embrace that as you look at it gains a different meaning. It first appears that the couple is deeply in love and surrounded by beautiful gilded ornamentation, but the longer you look at it you see how uncomfortable the woman is. Her kneeling position and head angle look extremely awkward and her hand is positioned in a way that can be interpreted as either caressing her companions or trying to move him away. The man’s face isn't visible at all but his hands are held close to the woman’s awkwardly positioned face. These observations lead many to believe that they are in fact not a loving couple embracing but it is a more complex situation. This is shown by the woman's discomfort with whatever is happening. Both of Schiele's pieces with this composition have the similar theme of non-ideal love. The first piece is Cardinal and Nun (Caress) it depicts a similar kneeling embrace but in this one the nun is aware of your presence unlike the woman from The Kiss. The nuns face shows a mix of panic, surprise, and shame for being caught. The stark color contrast of the cardinal’s red clothing to the background darkness and nun’s black clothing helps convey the drama of the clearly controversial situation. As in The Kiss, in this piece the man's expression pales in comparison to the expression on the woman's. Unlike The Kiss the man's face is visible but still comparatively expressionless to the woman’s. The piece Death and the Maiden is a step farther compositionally but closer in the meaning. It is about Egon’s personal life, it was made when he left his first love and longtime girlfriend Wally Neuzil who was introduced to him by Klimt (Masterpieces of Vienna). The woman is depicted as uncomfortably thin and clinging to the man; this is unlike in the other two where the woman is the one being clung to. This painting could convey their separation as the death of true love. The abstract environment and textured clothing consumed most of the pieces space and is reminiscent of portraitures from Klimt, who placed his subjects within patterned environments (Egon Schiele Biography).

Another example of their compositional similarities are in the pieces Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Portrait of Gerti Schiele, and Hope II. All three pieces have similar composition of a single large central woman. The pieces to be made first were the two by Klimt. Both Hope II and Adele Bloch-Bauer I was made in 1907. Adele Bloch-Bauer I is another of Klimt’s most famous works, it is a portrait of one of his lovers and the only woman to model for him more than once. The woman is surrounded with extravagant objects showing her intense wealth and power even though, like in many of his pieces, location and time aren’t depicted. The majority of the piece is in decorated abstraction leaving only her face and hands to describe the subject. Contrasting with the gilding showing her wealth and power her face and hand positioning show her as fragile. This human fragility is also shown in Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Gerti Schiele. In this portrait of his younger sister she is a teenager with patches of flat golden and silver adornments much like the style of his mentor Klimt. Schiele’s color palette though instead of feeling powerful is more muted and reminds more of death than of the virility that Klimt’s suggested . The piece Hope II by Gustav Klimt somehow combines themes of both of the previous pieces. It is one of the rare images of a pregnant woman (Gustav Klimt Biography). Even though women and children are very common in art pregnant women aren’t nearly as frequently depicted. This pregnant woman is both covered in the beautiful ornamentation of Klimt pieces and his bold colors it also has the darkness that was used in the Portrait of Gherti Schiele. The woman’s head is lowered and the women below her are could either be expressing praying or morning (Carole).
Both of these artists made an impressive impact in their own days on the world and other artists styles but in more recent times their art has had an amazingly great impact. Klimt’s ornamentation has influenced modern fashion intensely. Fashion shows in every year included pieces that have had direct influence from Klimt’s works. Several pieces from the Aquilano Rimondi spring 2011 show had the golden background with abstract patterning over it that is clearly reminiscent of Klimt’s work (Blanks). In the Hermès fall 2012 show there is a dress that clearly reflects the portrait of Emilie Floge, 1902 by Gustav Klimt (Blanks). Klimt was very influenced in his day by Japanese prints and that influence is carried through to modern fashion(Gustav Klimt Biography). Clean lines and simple bold colors are staples of modern fashion. Emilie Floge in her own time ran a fashion salon and maintained one of its rooms as a Klimt room all through world war two leaving the doors always bolted (Portrait of Emilie Floge). Klimt was very inspired by Emily's fashion and sometimes designed his own outfits for his models(Costa). He stated that his fashion was specially designed as a statement against older Viennese social values that had also chastised his art for being excessive and explicit. At the time fashions that manipulated womens bodies by corsets, bustles and other garments were popular, they changes the way women looked to fit a desirable mainstream. "Klimt brought the debate about relationship between art and fashion to a new level by inserting a moral issue into artistic dressmaking," writes Clara Rivollet in The Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History (Costa). In the famous portrait of Emilie Floge she wears a decorated blue dress and looks pointedly at the observer. All of the designs that emily and Klimt made together break from traditional clothing in shape and pattern. They made loose robes, similar to Indian saris, with intricate geometric designs(Costa).

Many believe that several of Schiele’s pieces influenced 1980’s-90’s music art. The piece Self Portrait as Saint Sebastian (Self Portrait) is said to have influenced the cover of David Bowie’s 1979 Lodger album(David Bowie's Album Sleeve Art). Schiele is known for his massive ego and this is easily shown in him depicting himself as a literal saint. Even though David Bowles album cover didn't exactly portray that same concept he is known for being very showy and dramatic in his own right.

Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt accomplished many amazing things in their collective life times. Some of the most inspiring art since the turn of the century was made by them. However dark and twisted their lives may have been they have and continue to inspire artists for generations. a fundamental part of art is taking information and finding a new creative way to express it and these artists exemplify that.





Works Cited

Achara, Esther Adams, and Meredith Melling. "Golden Lady." Vogue. Vogue, 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 08 June 2015.

Blanks, Tim. "Aquilano.Rimondi Spring 2011 Ready-to-Wear." Style.com. N.p., 26 Sept. 2010. Web. 08 June 2015.

Blanks, Tim. "Hermès Fall 2012 Ready-to-Wear." Style.com. N.p., 4 Mar. 2012. Web. 08 June 2015.

Carole, Jo, Ronald S. Lauder, and Serge Sabarsky. "Gustav Klimt. Hope, II."MoMA.org. MoMA, n.d. Web. 08 June 2015.

Costa, Claudia. "Klimt and the Birth of Modern Fashion." The Genteel. N.p., 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 08 June 2015.

"David Bowie's Album Sleeve Art." The Guardian. N.p., 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 8 June 2015.

"Egon Schiele Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works." The Art Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2015.

"Egon Schiele, Cardinal and Nun (Caress)." Masterpieces of the Collection. Leopold Meuseum, n.d. Web. 08 June 2015

"Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Physalis." Leopold Museum. Leopold Meuseum, n.d. Web. 08 June 2015.

Glover, Michael. "Great Works: Death and the Maiden." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 08 June 2015.

"Gustav Klimt Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works." The Art Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2015.

Master Pieces of Vienna: Death and the Maiden. BBC 4, 2008. Television.

"Portrait of Emilie Floge." Portrait of Emilie Floge, 1902 by Gustav Klimt. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2015.

"Self Portrait as St. Sebastian." Self Portrait as St. Sebastian. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2015.

Whitford, Frank. Klimt. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1990. Print.