“I have never painted a self-portrait. This is because I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women.” This is a direct quote from Austrian symbolist painter Gustave Klimt and is perhaps the definitive statement, to sum up, the man behind the canvas.
Gustave Klimt was a lover. A lover and rebel rejected society’s rules and went his own way, following his wishes and fulfillments. He lived freely, which his success as an artist allowed for, and is noted for having countless affairs with many women during his life, fathering fourteen children as a result.
Despite never marrying and embodying a carefree, playboy lifestyle, Klimt did engage in some enduring, meaningful, and long-lasting relationships throughout his otherwise flagrant life. But unfortunately, he is proving that even the most rebellious non-conforming soul still falls firmly under the blanket of universal and animal law.
Till Death Do Us Part – Emilie Flöge
Of all the intimate liaisons in Klimt’s life, none were more impactful or enduring than his relationship with Emilie Louise Flöge. She was both a fashion designer and businesswoman who first became acquainted with Klimt through his sister-in-law. Although fifteen years his junior, Flöge, and Klimt soon became close, their relationship endured until the end of his life.
Gustave Klimt used her as a model in many of his works. And through her fashion design background, they collaborated many times over, for both shared a love of fine costumery. Klimt may have even drawn some garment designs for Flöge’s boutique, but this has never been entirely verified. Art lovers can learn about Klimt famous paintings where she was a model and give their own thoughts about it.
His painting titled “The Kiss” is the only ‘self-portrait’ he ever painted as it is said to show himself and Emilie embracing as lovers. When he died, she inherited half of fortune and estate, and it has been documented that his final words were “Emilie must come,” which stands as a touching testament of their love and life together.
There is one thing that almost everyone on the planet, past or present, has in common- they love cats! From the ancient Egyptians’ fascination and practically Godlike reverence to our displays of worship in popular culture, they are one of the most viewed topics on the internet, garnering millions of views every week. Yes, it cannot be denied; humans truly love our agile animal companions.
Gustave Klimt was no different. The painter was utterly enamored with the cute creatures, and some could even argue that he liked cats more than people. He lived alongside dozens of them and let many freely roam throughout his studios and home. It has also been documented that despite them damaging his sketches, the man didn’t seem to mind.
He produced many superb paintings and artworks dedicated to them throughout his illustrious career, and they were one of the significant artistic motivators in his life. Perhaps, the cat represented Klimt’s ‘spirit animal’ with their wild, untamable, rebellious nature, reflecting his own.
Infatuation with the Female Form
But perhaps Klimt’s most enduring relationship and passion were that of the rampant naked female form itself. Almost every one of his paintings holds some semblance of the female form or at least some amalgamation of it. The connection could even be made that Klimt’s adoration for cats could also be an extension of his love of the female form, as cats have often been an associated symbol with the feminine principle.
Indeed, not one of his works contains a male figure unless it directly embraces or relates to that of a female. Male and female relationships were significant to Klimt, whether mother and child or a set of lovers. More telling in his paintings, though, is the eroticism behind them and Klimt’s more primal urges as the primary motivation of his work.
Although he may not entirely be called a feminist, Klimt supported the cause and, to an extent, even owes some of his success to it. If it had not been for the feminist movement in Europe at the time, his artwork would not have been nearly as successful. His radical naked portrayals, collaborating with the righteous movement of feminism, ultimately resulted in the liberal, equal society we all enjoy today.
The Bottom Line
Above all else, Klimt’s work should be remembered positively for the good it achieved in society rather than focusing solely on sexual content. For all artists have their message and way, and Klimt’s message was one of freedom and escaping from the inhabitants imposed by the state. His legacy and most enduring relationship is the one that we should all have the right to enjoy today, and that is; both personal and professional sovereignty and freedom.