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.

 

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

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

A century after the death of Gustav Klimt, his art continues to enrapture its viewers. Maybe it has enraptured you, but no matter how deep you’ve gone into Klimt’s oeuvre, there are three paintings you’ve only ever seen in black and white. That’s not because he painted them in that way; rich and brilliant colors originally figured into all his work, the most notable usage being the real gold layered onto his best-known painting, 1908’s The Kiss. In the year before The Kiss, he completed an even more ambitious work: a series of paintings commissioned for the University of Vienna‘s Great Hall, meant to represent the fields after which they were titled: Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.

Klimt’s “Faculty Paintings,” as they’re now known, struck critics at the time as pieces of “perverted excess.” Such charges must have been nothing new to Klimt, for whom unabashed eroticism and subjective views of reality — neither particularly in fashion in the institutions of early 20th-century Vienna — constituted basic artistic principles.




Ultimately, Klimt himself bought Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence back, and by the end of the Second World War all three had found their way into the hands of the Nazis. With defeat looming, they chose to burn down rather than surrender the Austrian castle in which they’d been storing the Faculty Paintings and other works of art.

With the Faculty Paintings surviving only in black-and-white photographs and scanty descriptions, generations of Klimt enthusiasts have had to imagine how they really looked. Now, Google Arts & Culture and Vienna’s Belvedere Museum have joined forces to figure out to a greater degree of certainty than ever, using artificial intelligence to determine what colors Klimt would have applied to Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence based on in-depth analyses of the rest of his work. You can get an overview of the process from the short video at the top of the post, and you can read about it in more detail at Google Arts & Culture.

“Klimt’s three Faculty Paintings were among the largest artworks Klimt ever created and in the field of Symbolist painting they represent Klimt’s masterpieces,” says Belvedere curator Dr. Franz Smola in a Google Arts & Culture blog post. “The colors were essential for the overwhelming effect of these paintings, and they caused quite a stir among Klimt’s contemporaries. Therefore the reconstruction of the colors is synonymous with recognizing the true value and significance of these outstanding artworks.” The project comes as just one part of Klimt vs. Klimt: The Man of Contradictions, an online retrospective featuring more than 120 of the artist’s works available to view in augmented reality, as well as an ultra-high-resolution scan of The Kiss. Klimt’s paintings may no longer shock us, but they still have much to show us.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How to Make Comics: A Four-Part Series from the Museum of Modern Art


A painting? “Moving. Spiritually enriching. Sublime. ‘High’ art.” The comic strip? “Vapid. Juvenile. Commercial hack work. ‘Low’ art.” A painting of a comic strip panel? “Sophisticated irony. Philosophically challenging. ‘High’ art.” So says Calvin of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, whose ten-year run constitutes one of the greatest artistic achievements in the history of the newspaper comic strip. The larger medium of comics goes well beyond the funny pages, as any number of trend pieces have told us, but as an art form it remains less than perfectly understood.  Perhaps, as elsewhere, one must learn by doing: hence “How to Make Comics,” a “four-part journey through the art of comics” from the Museum of Modern Art.

Created by comics scholar and writer Chris Gavaler, this educational series begins with the broadest possible question: “What Are Comics?” That section offers two answers, the first being that comics are “cartoons in the funnies sections of newspapers and the pages of comic books” telling stories “about superheroes or talking animals” — or they’re longer-format “graphic novels,” which “can be more serious and include personal memoirs.”




The second, broader answer conceives of comics as nothing more specific than “juxtaposed images. Any work of art that divides into two or more side-by-side parts is formally a comic. So if an artist creates two images and places them next to each other, they’re working in the comics form.”

That second definition of comics includes, say, Andy Warhol’s Jacqueline Kennedy III — a work of art that conveniently happens to be owned by MoMA. The museum’s visual resources figure heavily into the whole “How to Make Comics,” in which Gavaler explains not just the process of creating comics but the relationship between comics and other (often longer institutionally approved) forms of art. And to whatever degree they juxtapose images, the works of art in MoMA’s online collection — rich as so many of them are with action, character, narrative, humor, and even words — offer inspiration to comic artists budding and experienced alike. The better part of two centuries into its development, this thoroughly modern medium has the power to incorporate ideas from any other art form; the high-and-low distinctions can take care of themselves. Enter “How to Make Comicshere.

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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

Not long ago I stayed in a hotel by the train station of a small Korean city. In the room hung a reproduction of Gustav Klimt’s Die Umarmung, or The Embrace. This at first struck me as just another piece of culturally incongruous décor — a phenomenon hardly unknown in this country — but then I realized that its sensibility wasn’t entirely inappropriate. For the room was in what belonged, broadly speaking, to the category of South Korea’s “love hotels,” and Klimt, as Great Art Explained creator James Payne puts it, “placed sexuality at the forefront of his work.” The artist had that in common with Sigmund Freud, his fellow denizen of fin de siècle Vienna.

With paintings like Die Umarmung, Klimt pushed the boundaries of what Freud called “the misunderstood and much-maligned erotic.” Payne cites those very words in his new video on Klimt’s much better-known work Der Kuss, or The Kiss.




Completed in 1908, the painting shows both the artist’s penchant for “allegory and symbolism” carried over from his younger days, as well as his mature ability to transform allegory and symbolism “into a new language that was more overtly sexual and more disturbing.” For these and other reasons — its nearly life-size dimensions, its liberal use of actual gold — The Kiss has for more than a century been an un-ignorable work of art, even “an icon for the post-religious age.”

As in his other fifteen-minute videos, Payne manages to discuss both technique and context. Here the “deliberate contrast between the realistically rendered flesh and the two-dimensional abstract ornamentation creates an effect almost like photo montage.” The figures’ clothes offer “a visual metaphor for the emotional and physical expression of erotic love,” and their close framing echoes Japanese woodblock prints, from which Payne notes that Klimt (like Van Gogh) drew great inspiration. He also traces the aesthetic roots of The Kiss through Edvard’s Munch’s eponymous painting, and Auguste Rodin’s even earlier sculpture. “Once considered pornographic and deviant,” Klimt’s was later “put on display in one of the imperial palaces” — and even today, on the other side of the world and in a much humbler context, it retains its romantic power.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Albert Camus on the Responsibility of the Artist: To “Create Dangerously” (1957)

Literary statements about the nature and purpose of art constitute a genre unto themselves, the ars poetica, an antique form going back at least as far as Roman poet Horace. The 19th century poles of the debate are sometimes represented by the dueling notions of Percy Shelley — who claimed that poets are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” — and Oscar Wilde, who famously proclaimed, “all art is quite useless.” These two statements conveniently describe a conflict between art that involves itself in the struggles of the world, and art that is involved only with itself.

In the mid-twentieth century, Albert Camus put the question somewhat differently in a 1957 speech entitled “Create Dangerously.”

Of what could art speak, indeed? If it adapts itself to what the majority of our society wants, art will be a meaningless recreation. If it blindly rejects that society, if the artist makes up his mind to take refuge in his dream, art will express nothing but a negation.

And yet, grandiose ideas about the artist’s role seemed absurd in the mid-twentieth century, when the question becomes whether artists should exist at all. “Such amazing optimism seems dead today,” writes Camus. “In most cases the artist is ashamed of himself and his privileges, if he has any. He must first of all answer the question he has put to himself: is art a deceptive luxury?”




Women artists have also had to consider the question, of course. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova quotes Audre Lorde’s call for artists to “uphold their responsibility toward ‘the transformation of silence into language and action.” Ursula Le Guin believed that art expanded the imagination, and thus the possibilities for human freedom. Both of these writers were politically engaged artists, and so it’s little wonder that we find similar sentiments in Camus’ speech from decades earlier.

To make art, Camus writes, is to make choices. Artists are already involved, as Shelley declared, in shaping the world around them, whether they acknowledge it or not:

Reality cannot be reproduced without exercising a selection… The only thing needed, then, is to find a principle of choice that will give shape to the world. And such a principle is found, not in the reality we know, but in the reality that will be — in short, the future. In order to reproduce properly what is, one must depict also what will be.

The most eloquent, enduring expressions of future thinking are that which we call art. Even art that seeks to depict the fleetingness of nature freezes itself for posterity.

Art, in a sense, is a revolt against everything fleeting and unfinished in the world. Consequently, its only aim is to give another form to a reality that it is nevertheless forced to preserve as the source of its emotion. In this regard, we are all realistic and no one is. Art is neither complete rejection nor complete acceptance of what is. It is simultaneously rejection and acceptance, and this is why it must be a perpetually renewed wrenching apart. 

To understand art as purposelessly divorced from the world is to misunderstand it, Camus argues. This is the misunderstanding of “a fashionable society in which all troubles [are] money troubles and all worries [are] sentimental worries” — the self-satisfied bourgeois society “about which Oscar Wilde, thinking of himself before he knew prison, said that the greatest of all vices was superficiality.”

Art for art’s sake is the doctrine of a “society of merchants… the artificial art of a factitious and self-absorbed society,” Camus declared. “The logical result of such a theory is the art of little cliques.” Or, to a degree Camus could not have imagined, we have the entertainment industrial complex of art for commerce’s sake, which in the 21st century can make it nearly impossible for art to thrive. (As actor Stellan Skarsgård recently said in public comments, the problem with the film industry is “that we have for decades believed that the market should rule everything.”)

Therefore, the question before Camus, and no less before artists today, is how to “create dangerously” in a society “that forgives nothing.” The question of whether or not art serves a purpose is a false one, he suggests, since “every publication is a deliberate act,” and therefore purposeful. The real question, for Camus the philosopher, “is simply to know — given the strict controls of countless ideologies (so many cults, such solitude!) — how the enigmatic freedom of creation remains possible.” If only arriving at such knowledge were so simple. Camus’ lecture has recently been translated by Sandra Smith and published in the short volume, Create Dangerously: The Power and Responsibility of the Artist. You can read a section of the lecture at Lithub.

Camus’ speech was presented on December 14, 1957 at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, shortly after he won the Nobel Prize.

via Brain Pickings

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

Monet’s Water Lilies: How World War I Inspired Monet to Paint His Final Masterpieces & Create “the World’s First Art Installation”

When one considers which artists most powerfully evoke the horrors of trench warfare, Claude Monet is hardly the first name to come to mind. And yet, once viewed that way, his final Water Lilies paintings — belonging to a series that, in reproduction, speaks to many of no more harrowing a setting than a doctor’s waiting room — can hardly be viewed in any other. These eight large-scale canvasses constitute “a war memorial to the millions of lives tragically lost in the First World War,” argues Great Art Explained creator James Payne. Monet declined to include a horizon line in any of them, leaving viewers in “a vast field of unfathomable nothingness, of light, air, and water,” at once peaceful and reminiscent of “the battle-ravaged landscape along the western front.”

Those battlefields “had no beginning or end, and no horizons. Time and space was forgotten, as soldiers were enveloped in a sea of mud, surrounded by waterlogged and surreal landscapes, which covered their field of vision.” The Great War, as it was then known, still raged on when the septuagenarian Monet began these works.  (“He could hear the sound of gunfire from 50 kilometers away from his house in Giverny as he painted,” notes Payne.)




By the time he finished them, in the last year of his life, the fighting had been over for eight years. In a sense, these paintings may have kept him alive: “He was constantly ‘reworking’ them and seemed incapable of finishing,” even though, by his own admission, “he could no longer see the details or make out colors.”

When these Water Lilies were revealed to the public, mounted in their own specially designed gallery in Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie (arranged by close personal friend Georges Clemenceau), Monet was dead — which may, in part, explain the critics’ willingness to deride them as the work of an artist who had lost his powers. “Monet, rejected by critics in the 19th century for being too radical, was now being criticized in the 20th century for not being radical enough.” It would take a later generation of artists — including American painters like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock  — to see his last works as “a logical jumping-off point for abstraction,” and the space that houses them as “the Sistine Chapel of impressionism.” World War I has passed out of living memory, but “the world’s first art installation” it inspired Monet to create has lost none of its power.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Ai Weiwei Creates Hand-Silkscreened Scarves Drawing on a Chinese Paper Cutting Tradition

FYI: Ai Weiwei has created handwoven and hand-silkscreened scarves that aesthetically draw on a 2,000-year-old Chinese paper cutting tradition. “The colored, intricately cut papers are used as a story-telling medium in festivities, for prayers, and as everyday decoration.” The scarves are 100% silk. You can find versions in blue, red and black. (Here’s Ai Weiwei sporting one in red.) Or find them all here on Taschen’s web site.

Note: Taschen is a partner of ours. So if you purchase a scarf, it helps support Open Culture.

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Japanese Guided Tours of the Louvre, Versailles, the Marais & Other Famous French Places (English Subtitles Included)

“As tourist season here in Paris winds to a close and the air once again becomes crisp, fresh, and new,” writes The Atlantic‘s Chelsea Fagan, “we must unfortunately acknowledge that it does not end without a few casualties.” That piece was published at this time of year, albeit a decade ago, when “tourist season” anywhere had a bit more bustle. But the worldwide downturn in travel hasn’t done away with the object of her concern: Paris Syndrome, “a collection of physical and psychological symptoms experienced by first-time visitors realizing that Paris isn’t, in fact, what they thought it would be.” This disorder, one often hears, is especially prevalent among the Japanese.

Japan, writes Fagan, is rich with portrayals of the French capital as a city “filled with thin, gorgeous, unbelievably rich citizens. The three stops of a Parisian’s day, according to the Japanese media, are a cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and Louis Vuitton.” To someone who knows it only through such images, a confrontation with the real Paris — with its service-industry workers who treat tourists “like something they recently scraped from the bottom of their shoes” to its subway cars “filled with groping couples, screaming children, and unimaginably loud accordion music” — can trigger “acute delusions, hallucinations, dizziness, sweating, and feelings of persecution.”




Not all Japanese visitors to Paris, of course, come down with Paris Syndrome. Some plunge into an even more overwhelming condition of love for the City of Light, as might well have been the case with the Youtuber France Guide Nakamura. “I studied art history at a university in France and was amazed at how interesting it was,” he writes on his about page. “When you study art, there is a moment of revelation! Something that was not visible until now suddenly appears. It is the ‘pleasure’ of ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding.’ I think this is the ‘core’ of tourism.” It is on that basis that he creates videos like the hour-long Louvre tour above, a smooth first-person walk through the world’s most famous museum that he narrates with a high degree of articulacy, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

Experienced in leading tours for his countrymen, he describes all his videos in his native Japanese. But in the case of his Louvre tour, you can turn on English subtitles by clicking the CC button in the toolbar at the bottom of the video. His other popular English-subtitled videos include walks through Montmartre, Marais, and the Latin Quarter, as well as certain excursions outside of Paris, such as this visit to Versailles. If you do speak Japanese, you’ll also be able to enjoy Nakamura’s many previous videos digging into the nature, history, and cultural context of other things French, from neighborhoods to works of art to convenience stores, but not, as yet, the Eiffel Tower — or for that matter, Louis Vuitton.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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