Friday, February 1, 2013


Gustav Klimt’s studio is to be restored and opened to visitors.Once a small country cottage surrounded by fruit trees, the house at 11 Feldmühlgasse was expanded several times after Klimt’s death.The plan now is to demolish 90% of the building, leaving only the original core which Klimt occupied from 1912 until his death in 1918.The studio lies seven kilometres west of the centre of Vienna, in Heitzing, in what was then countryside.Klimt was living in his mother’s apartment in Westbahnstrasse, in town, and renting a workspace offered a place where he could embrace a more Bohemian lifestyle.There was scandalous talk of what went on at the studio, with models wandering around in the nude.According to his artist friend Carl Moll, every day “several were at his beck and call”.Klimt was a notorious womaniser, and there were rumours that he eventually fathered up to 16 children.When Klimt rented the small house, which was built in around 1860, he installed a large window on the north side, enabling him to use the main room as his studio.He lavished great love on the garden, tending roses among the yew trees.Two of his original rose bushes still survive, and these are also immortalised in his 1912 painting Orchard with Roses.Following Klimt’s death in 1918, his friend Egon Schiele (who himself was to die later that year) made what was then regarded as a crazy suggestion.He wrote about the Feldmühlgasse studio: “Nothing should be removed—because everything connected with Klimt’s house is a gesamtkunstwerk [total work of art] which must not be destroyed.The unfinished pictures, brushes, easel and palette should not be touched, and the studio should be opened as a Klimt Museum for the few who enjoy and love art.” It is almost miraculous that Klimt’s studio has survived.The Austrian government has now agreed to save the studio, and is to hand the property over to the Belvedere (which still has the largest collection of Klimt paintings).It will be offered rent-free, together with a contribution of €2m ($2.9m) for the restoration.All post-1918 additions to the building will be demolished, and the original four-room bungalow restored as closely as possible to how it originally looked.What makes the reconstruction of Klimt’s studio such an important opportunity is the survival of the furniture, which had been made by Wiener Werkstätte designer Josef Hoffmann.This was created as an ensemble, and was designed for Klimt’s requirements, with a large wall cabinet for his books and equipment, and seats for talking with clients.Originally made for an earlier studio in Josefstädter Strasse, the furnishing were moved to Feldmühlgasse in 1912.Such was the influence of Hoffmann’s furniture on Klimt that he apparently used the black-and-white band design from it as a decorative element in the background of his Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.This important painting was among those restituted last year from the Belvedere and it was subsequently bought by Ronald Lauder for his Neue Galerie.Another collector is to lend Japanese prints and African sculptures originally owned by Klimt. This will house the artist’s archive, which is owned by the Belvedere.Although two thirds of Klimt’s garden has over the decades been lost to new apartments, it still remains a tranquil spot, and it will be brought back to its original form.Klimt’s visitors recall it full of bumblebees and songbirds.

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