The Magic of Line: Gustav Klimt’s Artistic Process

The Magic of Line: Gustav Klimt’s Artistic Process


[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER: The starkness
of a hand-drawn line, with its potential
for lyrical beauty, is essential to
Gustav Klimt’s art. Through line, Klimt
sought to convey the essence of the human
form, and the nature of human existence. LEE HENDRIX: As an
artist, Klimt wanted to explore universal emotions,
like suffering, hope, and love. And it was through the daily
practice of life drawing that he cultivated his ideas. SPEAKER: While sketching
nude models in his studio, he experimented with poses,
gestures, and expressions, refining them until he
reached a perfect pitch of emotional intensity, which he
then conveyed through painting. LEE HENDRIX: As far
as we know, Klimt did not write about his art,
yet we do know something about how he worked. He used an adjustable easel
to draw from various angles. He posed models on a bed so
that their languorous bodies could suggest floating,
a motif that’s very important in his art. SPEAKER: The fluid
and linear style we think of as Klimt’s
wasn’t always that way. He was a gifted artist,
who for many years worked as a decorative painter
of interiors, in a style that might surprise us
today, yet suited the prevailing conservative
taste in art at that time. LEE HENDRIX: The
painting that dominated Vienna in the late
1800s was tightly controlled and realistic. It involved
three-dimensional modeling. It involved glorifying
important moments from the past. SPEAKER: One of the
most striking examples of Klimt’s early
style is a mural that represents an event
from theater history, the staging of Romeo and Juliet
in Shakespeare’s Old Globe Theater and the related
preparatory drawings of actors in Renaissance costume. Klimt had an eye for seemingly
opposite tastes, opulent, but also spare. He admired the art
of other cultures of the past and present,
especially those that emphasized surface,
pattern, and line. By the mid-1890s, Klimt and
like-minded Austrian artists separated from the conservative
Viennese art establishment. They admired a new style
of art emerging in Europe, what is now called symbolism. Klimt was especially
influenced by the work of several Belgian
and Dutch artists, Fernand Khnopff’s enigmatic
children and erotic women, Jan Toorop’s gaunt floating
females, and George Minne’s angular expressive males. LEE HENDRIX: The
symbolists were interested in the psychological,
areas of exploration that for Klimt the
practice of figure drawing perfectly supported,
as his own style began to radically change. SPEAKER: Symbolism emphasized
a dream world, often expressed through soft focus
effects, such as in his 1898 drawing
of a young woman gazing pensively
toward the viewer. The cloudy effect of
her hair is created by a technique of smudging black
chalk into the paper grain. Klimt made this sketch only a
few years later, around 1901, after his symbolist style
was firmly established. It was used as the basis
for a painting in which you notice figures floating in
a kind of dreamlike state. LEE HENDRIX: As Klimt
saw it, floating through life with no
control over destiny is the essence of
the human condition. Although the seductive young
woman sinks like a stone to the bottom of
the stream, her hair appears suspended in water. These sketches combine
experimentation with careful observation. They show how Klimt honed
his technique and his ideas in order to communicate
exactly what he wanted to say. SPEAKER: Klimt’s life
drawings offer great insight into his working process, a
lifetime of careful observation of the human form, honed to
a simple, thoughtful line. [MUSIC PLAYING]

14 thoughts on “The Magic of Line: Gustav Klimt’s Artistic Process

  1. Yes, it's an excerpt from Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (Op. 55), also known as the Eroica Symphony.

  2. Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op.55 "Eroica": II. Marcia Funebre (Adagio assai) Herbert von Karajan and Berliner Phiharmoniker

  3. I kind of suspect many of these masters of using projections, photo-transfer and doing tracings, now. Klimt included.ย  The drawings are to work out the composition.ย  But to do the actual work – he used "helps."

  4. Brilliant. I am a natural linear artist but have had this bludgeoned out of me by chocolate boxy faux impressionist teachers who cant do line! Back to the drawing board then for simplicity and clarity but mostly flow! I had forgotten!

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