Belvedere, noch einmal

Belvedere, noch einmal

One of the very first places I took Michael of course was the Belvedere (Dec. 29). The Christkindlmarkt was already gone (the Punsch stands were collapsed and waiting on pallets to be removed), and the grounds were a bit stark with the bare winter trees, but Klimt’s “The Kiss” is something everyone should visit with their beloved. Unlike 30 years ago when I first saw it, this painting is now displayed dramatically in a darkened room with spotlights, along with other Klimt paintings. One of my favorites is a lesser known 1895 painting with a fabulous integral border and frame, of the actor Josef Lewinsky portraying Carlos in the play “Clavigo.” It is the misty, delicate painting on the border (double click on the image to see the details – there are ghostly figures on the righthand side) that fascinated me the most – and this, like other earlier portraits, shows how beautifully the classically trained Klimt could really draw!

klimt_lewinsky_400

The atmosphere of the Klimt gallery is lush and romantic, which suits the sensuous radicalism of Klimt’s art for its time. The excellent art collection and beautiful interiors are always worth a repeat visit. To learn more about the collections, with lots of good reproductions, see http://www.belvedere.at/en/sammlungen/belvedere. Here is a reproduction from the Belvedere web site:
Klimt Kiss from Belvedere web site
Of course, you can find “The Kiss” all over Vienna, printed on just about any souvenir object possible, from expensive silk scarves and wine goblets to cheezy eyeglass cases and shot glasses. Is the original cheapened by all these reproductions? I’m inclined to think so, somewhat, but the original (which is very large, and decorated with a uniquely muted gold leaf) is so different in person that no reproduction – even the good ones – can ever do it justice. The other Klimt paintings are also wonderful. (It’s either amusing or annoying, I can’t decide which, to see reproductions of Judith with the head of Holofernes, reproduced – no doubt for the romantic college girl set to hang on their dormitory walls – without the ghastly decapitated head! Misses the point of the sadistic-erotic painting entirely. Neither Klimt nor Freud would approve, for sure!) Also from the Belvedere web site:
Gustav Klimt Judith I, 1901 Öl auf Leinwand 84 x 42 cm

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About pcooperwhite

Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Union Theological Seminary, New York NY
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