What Is Art Nouveau?
Plate # 50/50.From Das Werk Gustav Klimts. painting 1913
A complete set of Das Werk Gustav Klimts (the Work of Gustav Klimt) contained 50 prints on heavy wove paper with deckled edges. Issued unbound, the prints were divided into five groups of ten, each group including two multicolored images. Groups were published separately over a period of six years and sold only by subscription through the publisher, H.O. Miethke. The prints depict Klimt's most important paintings dating from between 1898 and 1913. Because Klimt personally supervised the project and insisted on the proper resolution of technical problems, the 50-print project, which was undertaken by early 1908, was not completed until 1914.
Das Werk Gustav Klimts demonstrates the remarkable ability of the collotype to render gradations of tone, color and texture. All sheets and most of the images are in a square format, with the remainder in the narrow rectangle format derived from Japanese paintings and woodblock pillar prints. Klimt designed a unique signet for each print, to be centered beneath the image and impressed in gold ink.
The first group of 10 was offered at the Kunstschau in June 1908 and the first purchaser was Emporer Franz Joseph. Ironically, this group included depictions of three state- commissioned paintings that had been declared pornographic and led to Klimt's "exile" from the world of public art eight years earlier.
The final installment of Das Werk became available in 1914, the same year that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo. Within three months, most of Europe, Russia, UK and all of its colonies, and Japan were engaged in the Great War. The fighting came to an official end on November 11, 1918, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
Apparently, as the war was winding down Hugo Heller of Vienna was preparing to offer the complete set of Das Werk Gustav Klimts as a boxed portfolio of loose prints in an edition of 230. Because the prints in the Heller edition seem in every way exact matches to the prints in the Galerie Miethke edition, art historians speculate with a reasonable degree of certainty that Heller's 230 were the balance of unsold sets from the Miethke edition, preserved during the war.
Gustav Klimt is best known for his opulently gilded art nouveau portraits of women that epitomize fin-de-siècle Vienna. His Symbolist pastiches of pale nudes, allegorical gardens and erotic content served as the basis for many American psychedelic poster designs in the 1960s. Early in his career, Klimt was supported generously by the Viennese community, and received several commissions for murals in theaters and the Museum Kunsthistorisches. Early narrative paintings depicted heavy subjects such as anxiety, doubt, sexuality, and death, but in later years, he turned toward landscape painting, exploring light and abstract patterns of nature. His most famous paintings are The Kiss (1907) and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907), which sold for a record auction price of more than 100 million dollars in 2006.
Austrian, 1862-1918, Baumgarten, Austria, based in Vienna, Austria
What Is Art Nouveau?
Why This Gustav Klimt Landscape Is Likely to Set a New Record
The Greatest Lovers in Art History, from Frida Kahlo and Auguste Rodin to Nan Goldin