Gustav Klimt. Philosophy (1899).

Klimt University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings
Klimt University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings

Philosophy was the first of the three pictures presented to the Austrian Government at the seventh Vienna Secession exhibition in March 1900. It had been awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris, but was attacked by those in his own country. Klimt described the painting as follows: “On the left a group of figures, the beginning of life, fruition, decay. On the right, the globe as mystery. Emerging below, a figure of light: knowledge.” Critics were disturbed by its depiction of men and women drifting in an aimless trance. The original proposal for the theme of the painting was “The Victory of Light over Darkness”, but what Klimt presented instead was a dreamlike mass of humanity, referring neither to optimism nor rationalism, but to a “viscous void””

“Klimt came under attack for ‘pornography’ and ‘perverted excess’ in the paintings. None of the paintings would go on display in the university.
In May 1945, it is contended that all three paintings were destroyed by retreating SS forces.”

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