Gustav Klimt - Portrait of a Lady 1897

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Portrait of a Lady 1897

Portrait of a Lady 1897
51x27cm pastel/paper
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio, USA

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From Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College:
Klimt's portraits of women were usually commissioned by the sitters' husbands or fathers. Often dressed in expensive, one-of-a-kind gowns designed by Klimt's friend, Emilie Flöge, for the Wiener Werkstatten, the sitters were depicted against intricately patterned backgrounds in a style which removed them from reality and elevated them to an aesthetic plane similar to that created in contemporary portraits by Sargent, Whistler, and Anders Zorn. These portraits do not convey psychological insight but represent well-bred, haughty, yet enchanting upper-class women who seem trapped and immobilized by layers of decoration.
While the model in the Oberlin drawing, raven-haired and swathed in black, already conveys the "mystery" of woman--a pervasive theme in Klimt's oeuvre--the work cannot be considered an example of Klimt's mature style. In 1897 Klimt was beginning to turn towards Symbolism. He had just founded and become president of the Vienna Secession, and was receiving critical attention, mixed with protests, for his Symbolist paintings, such as Schubert am Klavier and the allegory of Philosophy(both destroyed during World War II).
D. Hamburger