An iconic painting, The Kiss, by Austrian Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) can be seen all over Ha Noi on canvasses, lacquer plates, boxes and coffee mugs, but not many people understand the author and his place in the world of fine arts.
An exhibition of paintings by Klimt, a forerunner of Modernism, opened on Friday at the Viet Nam National Library to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Klimt, like few other artists, embodies the beauty, seductiveness and boldness of art nouveau, the revolutionary art movement around 1900 in Europe.
His works include paintings, murals, sketches and other art objects with his primary subject being the female body. His works are marked by a frank eroticism, nowhere more apparent than in his numerous drawings in pencil.
He lived in a time and a place of a cultural path-breaking, together with fellow Viennese Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schonberg.
The exhibition also features portraits of women from the Austrian upper class. His many female portraits and female allegories form a narrative of the Vienna art nouveau era. These works depict a psychological depth while his landscape paintings show breathtaking beauty.
Beside his masterpieces like The Kiss, Judith and the Head of Holofernes and Adam and Eva, the exhibition also presents large-scaled panels about the artist's biography, career and personality.
In a rare writing called "Commentary on a Non-existent Self-portrait", he stated: "I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women . . . There is nothing special about me.
I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night... whoever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures."
The exhibition, which also marks the 40th anniversary of Austria-Viet Nam relations, will run until June 24 at 31 Trang Thi Street, Ha Noi.
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