Gustav Klimt in the Carrières de Lumières


The Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence presents Klimt and Vienna, a Century of Gold and Colours until January 4, 2015. The multimedia exhibition surveys a century of Viennese painters with Klimt at its heart.  Viennese artists including Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Egon Schiele, who were influenced by Klimt, are also displayed onto the quarry walls.

The walls of the former quarry, the Carrières de Lumières, are illuminated with thousands of digitized images that move to a metrical soundtrack. The exhibition display was specifically designed to incorporate the idiosyncrasies and dimensions of the quarry walls and ceiling. In order to produce movement, images were disassembled and reassembled. When visitors enter the quarry, they are immersed in the sights and sounds of the exhibit.

Considered one of the most illustrious Symbolist painters, Gustav Klimt’s work encompasses painting and architecture with sensitivities to nature and man, and an affinity for gold. He reflects on the source of life and the elements. His decorative motifs have an Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts influence, while gold leaf is a fundamental trait of his works. Gustav Klimt’s most familiar, and strikingly modern piece is The Kiss.

The exhibit is catalogued into seven sequences. Opening with Neoclassical Vienna, decorative and architectural forms take shape on the walls, ceilings and stones of the Carrières quarry. Neoclassical paintings by Hans Makart, the sanctioned painter to the Emperor, and works by a young Klimt are on display. In suspension of time, decorative sections of the ceiling and pillars of the 1891 palace architecture materialize onto the stones. The 19th Viennese national theater is another building in this category, with depictive work by Gustav Klimt and Franz Matsch.

There is a transformation in artistic style, in the second sequence, with a study of Klimt and the 1897 Viennese Secession in which he was one of the founders. During this time, the Austrian artist turned his back on academic classicism. The movement was created to establish work outside the constrictions of political, social and aesthetic conservatism. The artists of the movement were convinced that art had a wider vocation beyond the genre of painting.  Visitors will explore organic designs with floral creations and plant motifs, dominated in greens and gold.

The third sequence studies Klimt and gold with his 1902 Beethoven Frieze. Teeming with symbolism, this work was the perfect oeuvre in the Secession building. In this arrangement, visitors will discover a juxtaposition of stylized geometric forms; a tribute to the Byzantine mosaics that had impressed Klimt on his travels.

As the son of a gold engraver, Klimt logically incorporated gold leaf into his work to enhance his subject’s beauty. The gold intensified the awareness of the magical and the precious. The works lend themselves to timelessness. With an absence of perspective and the suppression of shadow, works replicated imagery of religious icons.

gustav klimt

Klimt and nature are the focus of the fourth sequence. Landscape motifs with plant life, orchards, fields and gardens surround visitors without any presence of the human form or decorative language. Looking downward, visitors are drawn to rich palettes in the carpet of flowers, then onto undergrowth, and the forest where tree trunks resemble pillars.

The fifth category profiles the figurative painter, Egon Schiele. In a village scene, laundry swoosh in the breeze, and there is the eventual arrival of autumn. Influenced by Klimt’s painting style, Schiele constructed his composition in successive planes. For his figures, rangy marionettes dance and spread themselves across the quarry stones.

The exhibit shifts back to Klimt and his work of women. The artist explores femininity in all its guises – young and old, beautiful and not – with finely drawn faces that are equally distant and sensual. Subsequently, paintings with a more existential style are on view. They explore life in all its phases, from birth to death.

Lastly, visitors will find the vibrantly colored pictorial world of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a painter-architect whose work is inspired by the Secession movement. Like his predecessors, Hundertwasser abandoned perspective, opting for successive planes. The artist favored a lively line, and felt that there was danger in portraying a straight line, because “they are alien to the nature of humanity, of life, of all creation.” His paintings create a utopian world in an explosion of color and endless spirals.

Gustav Klimt and the Century of Gold and Colours gives an account of Viennese painting over the course of a century, from his Secession movement to today through a pictorial dialogue connecting architectural models, decorative motifs and utopian concepts. The Gustave Klimt exhibition in the Carrières de Lumières creates a precise yet fluid composition that melds seamlessly as a performance within the Vienna quarry.

By: Dawn Levesque


Carrieres Lumieres

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