Danielle Steel’s favourite painting
The bestselling author has been mesmerised by Klimt’s ‘magical’
Kiss—the world’s most reproduced image—since she was 15
TESS Jaray ra writes of Klimt in her book of essays on painting: ‘How hard it is now, looking at Klimt, to grasp the revolutionary nature of his work at the turn of the 20th century.’ Like so many, she was first attracted as a teenager to the ‘mix of fantasy and ornament… the elegance and erotic centre’, but it was only as an artist that she fully appreciated ‘the pyrotechnic skills that he used to disguise those primitive forces of pattern—surely derived from the first human expression we know of, on pots and jewellery… and from prehistoric scroll patterns and the repeated eyes of the magic fetishes of Northern africa’.
Klimt’s desired fusion was of fine and applied art, the best of the past with an unconventional and modern vision. ruskin and William Morris in England were precursors; Gustav Mahler, his fellow Viennese, his musical equivalent. Born into penury, at 26, he received the highest order of merit from the last austroHungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph I, earned through public decorative commissions in booming Vienna, by then the sixth largest city in the world.
In 1904, censorship of a public commission made him ‘reject every form of state aid’. Liberated from commissions, and by foreign contact, his art became bolder and more ornate. His father was a goldsmith; now, he entered his own ‘golden period’, its apogee The Kiss—ironically an immediate state purchase, today possibly the world’s most reproduced work of art. Klimt, who customarily wore a floor-length smock, here transformed into a rich robe, is shown with Emilie Flöge, his sister-in-law and confidante, in a contrastingly clinging floral dress. They are placed in an Elysian field.