Despite Gustav Klimt’s popularity, lovers of his glittery portraits and romantic nudes have always had to make the pilgrimage to Vienna to see most of his famous paintings in the flesh. But now, Austria’s golden boy is getting his first show in the Golden State.
This weekend, the Legion of Honor will reveal the first major West Coast exhibition on Klimt’s career, featuring an unprecedented 33 works by the iconic Austrian painter. The rarity of this exhibit cannot be overstated: Klimt created only 200 works in his lifetime (Picasso was known to churn out a couple hundred a year), the artist has never had a show on the West Coast, and many of these works are making their first appearances in the United States.
Klimt’s featured artworks, which remarkably took less than a year to collect, come from institutions in Vienna, Prague, Washington D.C. and New York and from a number of private collections. Aficionados will be delighted to see famous works like the antiestablishment “Nuda Veritas” (1899), the signature landscape “Upper Austrian Farmhouse” (1911) and the romantic “The Virgin” (1913). Two seven-foot-tall panel reproductions of “Beethoven Frieze” (1902) offer a singular look at this work outside of Austria; the frieze is widely considered to mark the beginning of his “golden period.”
Klimt’s paintings are presented in dialogue with the museum’s extensive Auguste Rodin collection to mark the 100th anniversaries of both men’s deaths (Rodin’s in November 1917 and Klimt’s in February 1918). The two pioneering artists met just once at the Vienna Secession (an annual art show that sought to reunite the separate arts—architecture, painting, sculpture and music—under a common theme) in 1902 when Klimt submitted his frieze for the year’s “Beethoven Exhibition,” but both men broke aesthetic ground in their work. More than 25 sculptures and works on paper from Rodin will be carefully displayed alongside Klimt’s, including a gallery of erotic drawings from both men that show just how much these artists were inspired by the female form.
“Klimt and Rodin: An Artistic Encounter” is at Legion of Honor, Oct 14–Jan 28 (legionofhonor.famsf.org); $15–$30.