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The Klimt Exhibit

Exhibition XVIII, The Klimt Exhibit, 1903

Only two Secession exhibitions during the period between 1897 and 1905 concentrated exclusively on one artist: the eleventh featured Johann Victor Kramer (1901) and the eighteenth featured Gustav Klimt (1903). For his show, on view from November 14, 1903, to January 6, 1904, Klimt designed a poster, a variant of his painting Pallas Athene, that was printed by Albert Berger, and a vignette Ars for the loose glassine-like cover of the square-format catalog.

Joseph Olbrich's flexible design of the Secession building allowed for various configurations of exhibition space, and most Secessionist catalogs included a printed floor-plan. Although such a floor-plan is conspicuously absent from the Klimt catalog, several surviving photographs help reconstruct what the exhibition would have looked like: the octagonal entrance hall and electric lamps were designed by Josef Hoffmann and the rest of the exhibition layout was designed by Koloman Moser and included his white-painted beech chairs (a design later used in the Purkersdorf Sanatorium). Two of these chairs framed Klimt's Portrait of Hermine Gallia in a very deliberate arrangement. The walls were white with geometric borders in grey and gold, which flattened the backgrounds on which the paintings hung. Niches and additional frames were also used. Unlike other Secession shows there were no plants in the rooms.

The eighty numbered works (including thirty-two studies or drawings) were arranged in nine halls and one corridor. This relatively small number made for a very spacious layout. There were relatively few early works: Pallas Athene (No. 5) and Music II (No. 21), which had been shown at the second Secession exhibition, and Schubert at the Piano (No. 24), which had been shown at the fourth Secession, were the most prominent representatives. There were also some very early, somber landscapes, and, of course, the Beethoven Frieze (No. 11), from the 1902 Beethoven exhibition. This was shown in situ in Room Three—one of the factors in its survival as the artists' and designers' work around the Klinger sculpture was meant to have been ephemeral. The 1902 portrait of Emilie Flöge, with its flatter, more geometrical style, was shown for the first time, as was Jurisprudenz (No.26), a painting about which the critic Ludwig Hevesi (Ludwig Hirsch) said, while observing Klimt working on it, that "there was no longer any hope of finishing in time." It was Hevesi, an authority on Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secession, who pointed out Jurisprudenz's similarity to the bright gold mosaics of Sicily, something that separated it from Klimt's earlier two paintings for the University of Vienna: Medizin (No. 22) and Philosophie (No.23).

Paintings in the Exhibition