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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      From you have I been absent in the spring,
      When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
      Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
      That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
      Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
      Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
      Could make me any summer’s story tell,
      Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
      Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
      Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
      They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
      Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
      Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
      As with your shadow I with these did play.

      —William Shakespeare, born April 23, 1564

      Vase of Flowers (detail), 1722, Jan van Huysum. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      04/23/14

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