Le Confident

Ideas tête-à-tête

Klimt/Schiele : a rival friendship ?

Following the previous post I wrote, I want to add my interpretation of the paintings « The Hermits » and « Agony ». Each one of those two pictures have several common points : Schiele, Klimt, 1912.

The year 1912 was particularly important for the art identity of Schiele and also offered us the fabulous “self-portrait with physalis” and “Portrait of Wally Neuzil”. This couple of paintings is finally reunified since a little more than one year. After a long process with the US, the Leopold Museum had to pay the heirs of the originally owners of the “Portrait of Wally”. I will come back in an other post about several cases between galleries and heirs of originally owners of Austrian art as there was lot of stolen works during the second world war.

To begin with “The Hermits”, this painting is today one of the masterpieces of the collection of the Leopold Museum. In this dark picture, you can feel the ambiguity of the relation between Schiele and Klimt. Schiele has already lost, in 1912, the ornamental style of Klimt (like for example in the portrait he made of his sister Gerti in an ornamental dress, or his version of Danae…). Schiele is already born to himself but he does not forget that Klimt is his mentor. Schiele, since his father died of syphilis, is searching for a “father figure” (“Ich ewiges Kind”) and that is why he makes a tribute to Klimt ; but that also explains why he painted so much self-portrait. That seems not to be a narcissism (even if his personality was a kind of “love me or hate me”) but the results of a lack, nearly an existential question. His work is always to the borderline of life and death. He wrote himself : “I am man, I love life and I love death”. This picture reminds also several pictures that Schiele made with double self portrait (Selbstseher…) where there is always this confrontation of life and death ; like there was always a ghost in us that reminds us we are not eternal beings… but we don’t know what is coming. His work like a philosophy ! A try to observe yourself as a conscious !

At first glance, we see a self-portrait because Schiele is in the foreground and Klimt a little more in the background. But at the same time we feel like a confusion. The two artists seems to be just one, twin, (siamois). The hand, especially, in the middle, can be the one of Schiele or Klimt. Two faces on one body, like a unity … or a confrontation. Schiele wrote to Carl Reininghaus that “In the large painting one doesn’t see exactly how the two are standing there, at first glance… the poetic idea and the vision would be lost, as would the ambiguity of the figures which, conceived as being crumpled into themselves, are the bodies of individuals who have grown tired of life, grown suicidal—but even so, they are people of emotion. —Think of these two as being like a cloud of dust similar to this Earth, a cloud which wants to grow into something more but must necessarily collapse, its strength spent.” He expresses like a new youth, a continuation while Klimt comes to his end ; lifeless as this single rose (on the left).


 The same year he painted “Agony”. This picture is now in the Neue Pinakothek of Munchen. This picture, more colourful and nearly religious is the real tribute to Schiele to his mentor Klimt. This picture is the official independence of Schiele like a thank and a good bye to Klimt. The title sounds quite cruel but expresses the solemnity of this moment like the rupture between yesterday and tomorrow. The two characters are nearly religious. The clothes can be the one of painters (traditional especially for Klimt representations) or the one of a priests. The confusion is always here in the clothes but no more in the bodies. Schiele takes his artistic liberty.


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This entry was posted on June 22, 2012 by in Art and tagged .
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