Friday, April 17, 2015

Gustav Klimt & fin de siècle Vienna by Anne Chung

I know these are not Klimt's but Egon Schiele's. I first encountered Egon Schiele's work a few years ago when I visited the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. I was surprised at my own reaction, far from being appalled by its almost pornographic nature, I actually admired his work. It was art. In working on my current project, I came across more interesting events about Schiele. A certain Austrian by the name of Dr Otto Kallir was a life long and ardent fan of Schiele. Kallir was born a few years after Schiele and was therefor a contemporary of Schiele in Emperor Franz Josef's Austria. Kallir was born Otto Nirenstein and like many Jews, changed his name, to avoid anti-semitism. He served in Franz Josef's army in the first world war. He was introduced to Schiele by an army mate. He wanted Schiele to paint something for him but being in the army he had no way of paying and so the commission went nowhere. He became an art dealer in Vienna after the war and owned many of Schiele's paintings and drawings and a few of Gustav Klimt's. After the Anschluss (annexation of Austria into the Third Reich by Hitler) he moved to Paris but stayed only one year. Then he moved to New York. He was able to mount a few exhibitions showcasing Schiele's work. The first exhibition, he sold one painting of Schiele in 1941 but it did not deter him. He plodded on until today there are a few Schiele in every major museum in the USA. Definitely the Maria Altman vs the Austrian government case has propelled Gustav Klimt into the limelight that he enjoys today. But Klimt paintings are a rarity, all told there are about 200 Klimt paintings worldwide. Some of his work are too fragile to be moved, others were destroyed in the Castle Immendorf fire. A lot of Klimt's are in the Belvedere in Vienna and these will never leave the walls of the Belvedere! Personally I'm more partial to Gustav Klimt, hence my project.... stay tuned, more to come!

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