Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge | Photographs

I bought this beautiful book some time ago and it is definitely one of my favorites at the moment. The art project I am working on now brings me to paint 3 portraits “à la Klimt”, so I have been doing research on his painting technique, but also on his way of living and approaching art. “Viennese fashion designer Emilie Flöge was not only Gustav Klimt’s long term lover, but also the muse and model for some of his most exciting paintings. The couple was part of the legendary Viennese art circle that exerted international influence over the arts. The book presents for the first time a complete collection of the photographs of Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge, and draws a fascinating picture of the life of Viennese Bohème.”

“Emilie Flöge was the only constant companion of the affectionate Gustav Klimt for more than twenty years. This fact is beyond dispute, but the nature of their relationship has been the subject of controversy and debate since the early twentieth century. This creative couple bonded their mutual attraction and emotional dependence with an unspoken friendship union spiced with a bit of romance. This alliance was stronger than the bonds of marriage and it became their unsolved formula of love.

The Klimt and the Flöge families were related. In 1891, the artist`s brother Ernst married the elder sister of Emilie, and in the same year Gustav painted a portrait of his sister-in-law. From the earliest days of their acquaintance,Gustav, being in his thirties, liked to be around seventeen-year-old Emilie. To gain the sympathy of the girl he even agreed to learn French together. That was how they spent their first “dates” – innocently and usefully.

Ernst died in a year, and Gustav became the guardian of his brother’s newborn daughter. The artist often visited the Flöges, and from 1897 and on, Gustav and Emilie became inseparable. Many of their friends did not doubt that they were having an affair. The artist accompanied Emilie to the opera and theatre,he spent the summer months at the Flöges’ villa. He wrote the long letters and sent her the postcards from his trips, often drawing the winged hearts in those cute messages. 

To share his impressions with Emilie became a necessity for Gustav. In 1903,he wrote her about the “incredible beauty” of the 6th century mosaics in Italian Ravenna, which largely influenced the technique of his “Golden period”. The profession of her friend and their endless conversations about art obviously had an impact on Klimt`s companion. As a worthy pupil of the first painter of the Vienna Secession she would soon make her own revolution in the world of fashion.” (SOURCE)

The photographs in the books are well commented and researched and tell of many anecdotes and biographical elements. Here, as an example, some stories around his atelier life and his love for cats made me smile :

According to the Lehman Registry of Addresses, the garden building at Josefstädter Straße 21 served as a painting studio for the Franz Match & Klimt Brothers Company from 1891 until 1901. After the dissolution of the firm this building became Klimt’s Atelier. He made use of the studio until its planned demolition in 1911. He than had temporary use of Helene Hofstätters Villa on the Hohe Warte that was designed by Josef Hoffmann and which she only rarely used. A few months later he found his last studio in Feldmühlgasse. Moriz Nähr, likely commissioned by Klimt, documented the studio and garden shortly before the artist moved out.

This resulted in one of the most well known photographs of Klimt with a cat. In his 1942 monograph on Gustav Klimt and his studio Emil Pirchan recalled that: “I…..] Spurred on to work, he then flung himself into a carriage, which took him to his workshop in Josefstädter Straße. This studio room was very plain, the picture on the easels being the only decoration. […] But in front of this simple rear building was a garden, and in its square he carefully grew his favorite flowers for models. Six, eight and more cats chased to and fro within, and as he was unable to part with any of these animals so dear to him, one had to secretly kill some of them off from time to time, for the rapidly reproducing throng had already wreaked all manner of destruction to his drawings.

Immediately after Klimt’s death Egon Schiele wrote the following about Klimt’s studio in Josefstädter Straße: “It was in Josefstädter Straße 21, at the foot of a garden- one of those old, hidden gardens with which the Josefstadt still abounds- shaded all round by high trees, that a low, many-windowed little house stood. One reached it through flowers and ivy. For many years that was Klimt’s studio. One walked trough a glass door into a hall, piled with stretched canvas frames and other materials, that led to three further working studios. Hundreds of drawings lay strewn on the floor. Klimt always wore a blue smock with large folds that reached down to his ankles. Thus attired he met visitors and models who knocked on the glass door.

Gustav Klimt & Emilie Flöge Photographs, Agnes Husslein-Arco, Alfred Weidinger (Eds.), Prestel.

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