Gustav Klimt is a favorite for many because of his undeniably beautiful, decorative work and ethereal subjects. For me, his work represents so much more. In fact, I will never forget the day I set my eyes on his version of the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena. The son of a goldsmith, it’s quite clear where he got his influence from but it was his brother who designed the breathtaking gilded frame making this piece a family affair that resulted in more of an architectural piece. The canvas is strong, as it should be. It frames the woman who represents all that is wise and knowledgeable. However, Klimt, who was rumored to having been a misogynist, added a bit of a twist in his rendition. She is also a dangerous avenging warrior staring right back at her viewer in a frontal stance. Are all wise women dangerous, is the question. Dangerous in what way? To whom? Men? I would venture to say that’s what is implied.
Notice the fish scale armor. Its meaning is so personal, profound and deliberate. I mean, think about it for a second. Is it possible to hold a fish in your hands? They’re beautiful to look at but they slip away. It says so much about Klimt’s relationships and perception of women. It has always been so fascinating to me that he used this texture to protect her. She’s also holding the Nuda Veritas in her hand (the naked truth), who is clutching on to her mirror (symbol of self awareness) and a snake (symbol for quick wittedness). The plot thickens with each detail, making this subject a lot more than a wise woman. It’s no wonder this is my favorite piece of all time. So much to see. So much to think about. So much to question. It’s complex. Just like a woman. Yet, I find my peace in this work. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve referenced this painting as a symbol for what I’ve felt in my own relationships – A mix of vulnerability and strength.
Aaaah, the Kiss. Who doesn’t know this one. I can go and on about every detail (the woman’s body language, the implication of chastity) but I’ll leave it alone, and enjoy this one for its beauty. As my health starts get better and better, I like to dig into my old art books and revisit paintings that spoke to me at one time or another in my life. Each time I look, I find something new. I see something I hadn’t before. Today, it was Klimt.