GUSTAV KLIMT by Christian M. Nebehay


From Drawing to Painting
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 Andrew Wyeth's Helgas be damned. Klimt's erotic turn-of-the- century Viennese paintings have of late become popular iconographic fodder, and this handsome and luxuriant coffee-table extravaganza goes a long way to showing why. Nebehay's father was a friend and art dealer of Klimt's (18621918). The author himself is an Austrian antiquarian bookseller and scholar of Klimt, and of his notorious student, Egon Schiele. Nebehay puts his penchant for detail to great use as he incorporates a lively variety of visual sources: period postcards, posters, sepia photographs of the artist and his milieu, industrial-design objects of the period, examples of Viennese Ringstrasse neo-baroque architecture, and facsimile reproductions of sketchbook pages and correspondences. Special attention is paid to Vienna's utopian Secession movement, of which Klimt served as de facto leader. Its members included Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann, and Joseph Maria Olbrich. The work of these men, as well as that of Klimt's students Oskar Kokoschka and Schiele, is detailed in depth in the author's workmanlike and thoroughly annotated text. The book's real strength, though, is pictorial. The images are arranged in powerful juxtapositions. Klimt's loose and mellifluous pencil studies of nudes are counterposed with his intricate and stiffly stylized finished paintings. Elsewhere, full-bleed double-page spreads are effectively employed to reproduce sketchbook studies- -virtuoso doodlings in India ink of achingly erotic waifs and hollow-eyed death skulls. Lastly, a curriculum vitae time line is augmented with photos, Klimt's personal writings, and exhaustive supporting notes. In all, a package filled with studious information that succeeds foremost through its daring and stylish visual presentation. As art books go, this one offers quite the ride--heights of intoxicating decadence tethered down by scrupulous scholarly documentation.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8109-3510-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Abrams
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994


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