Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Prints and Drawings

Gustav Klimt, Draftsman

Gustav Klimt did not speak about his art, but he left many drawings that attest to the richness of his creative process. Gustav Klimt: The Magic of Line, opening today at the Getty Center, coaxes these drawings to speak, revealing how he thought and worked.

Klimt drew daily and obsessively from life. He hired models to come to his studio, where he posed and reposed them, making study after study to work out postures, gestures, and expressions. In his drawings, Klimt explored the human form in every age, every stage: infant, youth, pregnant, mature, aged—even after death, as skeleton. There are wrestlers, women of society, lovers, mothers, gorgons.

Many of the drawings in the show are studies for Klimt’s better-known paintings, and the exhibition shows how these works—hard, now, to imagine any other way—evolved. Adele Bloch-Bauer makes several appearances in flowing studies of pose and expression. One drawing of an embracing couple shows a hungry abandon, another a still tenderness; both were made in connection with his iconic painting The Kiss.

Klimt was a painstaking and slow painter, but a swift and decisive draftsman. These fluid, immediate works on paper reveal how he used line to explore his great subject, the human condition.

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      #ProvenancePeek: July 31

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This small panel by Dutch master Gerrit Dou (photographed only in black and white) is now in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was sold to American collector Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, in the summer of 1922.

      How do we know this? Archival sleuthing! A peek into the handwritten stock books of M. Knoedler & Co. (book 7, page 10, row 40, to be exact) records the Dou in “July 1922” (right page, margin). Turning to the sales books, which lists dates and prices, we again find the painting under the heading “New York July 1922,” with its inventory number 14892. A tiny “31” in superscript above Clark’s name indicates the date the sale was recorded.

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art, selling European paintings to collectors whose collections formed the genesis of great U.S. museums. The Knoedler stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Girl at a Window, 1623–75, Gerrit Dou. Oil on panel, 10 9/16 x 7 ½ in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts


      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.

      07/31/15

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