136 Paintings by Gustav Klimt Now Online (Including 63 Paintings in an Immersive Augmented Reality Gallery)

At the end of World War II the Nazis burned an Aus­tri­an cas­tle full of mas­ter­pieces, includ­ing three paint­ings by Gus­tav Klimt enti­tled Phi­los­o­phy, Med­i­cine, and Jurispru­dence. Called the “Fac­ul­ty Paint­ings,” these were com­mis­sioned by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vien­na for the ceil­ing of its Great Hall in 1900, then, upon com­ple­tion sev­en years lat­er, were deemed porno­graph­ic and nev­er exhib­it­ed. Until now, they were pre­served for pos­ter­i­ty only in black and white pho­tographs.

Thanks to cut­ting edge art restora­tion AI, the mono­chro­mat­ic images of Klimt’s Fac­ul­ty Paint­ings have been recon­struct­ed in col­or. They are now on dis­play in an online gallery of 130 paint­ings, plus a vir­tu­al exhi­bi­tion of 63 of the artist’s works, all brought togeth­er by Google Arts & Cul­ture and appro­pri­ate­ly called Klimt vs. Klimt. It’s a ret­ro­spec­tive explor­ing the artist’s many con­tra­dic­tions. Was he a “schol­ar or inno­va­tor? Fem­i­nist or wom­an­iz­er? Famous artist or hum­ble crafts­man? The answer, in most cas­es, is both,” notes Google. There’s more, of course, giv­en the venue, as Art Dai­ly explains:

The exhi­bi­tion fea­tures an immer­sive Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty Pock­et Gallery, which dig­i­tal­ly orga­nizes 63 of Klimt’s mas­ter­works under a sin­gle roof. Audi­ences can vir­tu­al­ly walk the halls of the gallery space at scale and zoom in on the paint­ings’ fine orna­men­ta­tion and pat­tern, char­ac­ter­is­tic of Klimt’s prac­tice, made pos­si­ble by the dig­i­ti­za­tion of his icon­ic art­works in ultra-high res­o­lu­tion.

With respect to the first pair of oppo­si­tions (that is, schol­ar or inno­va­tor?), Klimt was assured­ly both, though not exact­ly at the same time. Trained as an archi­tec­tur­al painter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Arts in Vien­na, his ear­ly work is solid­ly aca­d­e­m­ic — real­ist, for­mal, clas­si­cal and con­ser­v­a­tive.

So con­ser­v­a­tive an artist was Klimt, in fact, he was elect­ed an hon­orary mem­ber of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Munich and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vien­na, and in 1888 Klimt received the Gold­en Order of Mer­it from Aus­tri­an Emper­or Franz Josef I … before, that is, his work was judged obscene — a judg­ment that did sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle to hin­der Klimt’s career.

At the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry, Klimt abrupt­ly shift­ed focus, par­tic­u­lar­ly after the death of his artist broth­er Ernst and his father, a gold engraver, in 1892. He became a found­ing mem­ber of the Vien­na Seces­sion move­ment, pro­duc­ing some of his most famous Sym­bol­ist works dur­ing his “Gold­en Phase,” when many of his works con­tained real gold leaf in trib­ute not only to his father but to the Byzan­tine art he saw dur­ing vis­its to Venice and Raven­na. This was the height of Klimt’s career, when he pro­duced such works as The KissThe Embrace, and Ful­fill­ment and Expec­ta­tion, “prob­a­bly the ulti­mate stage of my devel­op­ment of orna­ment,” he said.

In many ways, Klimt embod­ied con­tra­dic­tion. An admir­er of soci­ety and lux­u­ry, he also spurned com­pa­ny, turned away all vis­i­tors, and spend­ing so much time paint­ing land­scapes dur­ing sum­mer hol­i­days that locals called him Wald­schrat, “for­est demon.” Renowned for his sex­u­al adven­tur­ous­ness (he sup­pos­ed­ly fathered 14 chil­dren), Klimt was also an intense­ly focused and iso­lat­ed indi­vid­ual. In a piece enti­tled “Com­men­tary on a Non-Exis­tent Self-Por­trait,” he writes:

I have nev­er paint­ed a self-por­trait. I am less inter­est­ed in myself as a sub­ject for a paint­ing than I am in oth­er peo­ple, above all women… There is noth­ing spe­cial about me. I am a painter who paints day and day from morn­ing to night… Who­ev­er wants to know some­thing about me… ought to look care­ful­ly at my pic­tures.

Look care­ful­ly at an online gallery of Klimt’s works here. And see the immer­sive Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty gallery here.


Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Gus­tav Klimt’s Mas­ter­pieces Destroyed Dur­ing World War II Get Recre­at­ed with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Gus­tav Klimt’s Icon­ic Paint­ing The Kiss: An Intro­duc­tion to Aus­tri­an Painter’s Gold­en, Erot­ic Mas­ter­piece (1908)

Gus­tav Klimt’s Haunt­ing Paint­ings Get Re-Cre­at­ed in Pho­tographs, Fea­tur­ing Live Mod­els, Ornate Props & Real Gold

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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