|Portrait of a Lady in Black, 1894, Gustav Klimt|
This is a portrait of a society ... middle-class, wealthy, unsure of itself ... for very good reason as history would show all too soon.
I was far more interested in the sitters, than in the artists, who seemed so real they could step out of the gilded frames for coffee and Sachertorte.
Look at the Lady in Black, at her exquisite silk dress with its jet beading, her gold jewellery and that porcelain complexion. (Click on the picture and you'll see the details better.) She was actually the wife of Vienna's master baker and that faint suggestion of a double chin hints at what might happen if she over-indulges in her husband's patisserie.
She is just in the nick of time to be painted by Klimt, who is still fairly young and affordable. (I don't think I've ever seen an early Klimt before, but isn't this one lovely, too?)
Another five years or so and his prices will have soared out of the baker's reach. And the Lady in Black would have been depicted rather more like this:
|Portrait of Hermine Gallia, 1904|
Anybody who has read The Hare with Amber Eyes will be fascinated by this exhibition. There is a photograph of Edmund de Waal's great-grandmother Emmy, dressed for a ball as a Titian duchess. Emmy's Viennese palace was ransacked by the Gestapo and, though she escaped to Czechoslovakia - not a good choice - she committed suicide, unable to cope with this cruel new world.
But Vienna had already experienced an epidemic of suicides among wealthy, Jewish gilded youth.
|Ria Munk on her Deathbed, 1912|
And they settled on this one instead, of Ria in a cascade of tulips, anemones and carnations.
|Ria Munk III, 1918|
So many stories and so sad.