Danielle Steel’s favourite paint­ing

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

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.

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