In an adaptation of the famous saying, behind every successful (male) artist there is a mother – and these mothers have often been the subject of their sons’ works. Perhaps the most famous is James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 (1871), more commonly known as ‘Whistler’s Mother‘ (remember Mr. Bean‘s hilarious encounter with the painting?). But the mums of Albrecht Dürer, Paul Gauguin, Lucien Freud and many many more, have all been immortalised in art by their sons.
This post is about the mother of the Viennese artist Gustav Klimt. She was clearly a very important figure for Klimt – he never married, and despite fathering 14 illegitimate children (allegedly), and having a life long companion in Emilie Flöge, he lived with his mother for his whole life. Her name was Anna Klimt, and this is the little I know about her:
Anna Klimt (neé Finster) was born in Vienna on 27 January 1836 into an impoverished family, but one with artistic talent. Anna herself was a lyric singer, but her musical ambitions were never realised. Marrying a metal engraver from Moravia (now in the Czech Republic), she gave birth to seven children – three boys and four girls. Her life was not easy – her husband Ernst Klimt never made a lot of money, then suffered badly in the financial crash of 1873, and she was affected deeply by the untimely death of her daughter Annerl (aged 5) in 1874. Her son Ernst and her husband both died in the year 1892, and for the next twenty-three years, Anna Klimt lived with son Gustav and her two spinster daughters.
Anna is said to have had a nervous breakdown after the death of her daughter Annerl, and continued to suffer from depression for the rest of her life. The death of his sister clearly left an impression on Gustav as well – he produced this beautiful and sensitive posthumous drawing of her (above) ten years after her death.
Klimt painted his mother in oils, but this portrait is now lost. Some sketches do exist, in which he is clearly indebted to Whistler:
Klimt often worked from photographs, and it is likely that the above sketch was done after a photograph of his mother taken on the occasion of her 70th birthday, on 27 January 1906:
In this photograph, Anna Klimt is seated in a chair by the Wiener Werkstätte, a present for her birthday. I love the pattern of the upholstery, most probably designed by Josef Hoffmann.
Anna died on 6 February 1915, aged 79. Gustav Klimt died three years later, aged 55, and was buried next to his mother in Heitzinger Cemetery in Vienna. In death, as in life, they were not to be parted.
Happy Mother’s Day 2014 to all mothers everywhere, especially mothers of artists – but also to my very own mum who has braved many hardships in her life but is still going strong and celebrated her 80th birthday in January. Keep up the good work mum!Read More
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and especially to my very own Mum.
I’m on my way to Vienna, so here is a card featuring a detail from Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s Three Ages of Women, painted in 1905.
With lots of love,
More old photographs, this time to celebrate my very own mum on Mother’s Day.
Though I’m sure this photograph was taken long before I was born, I love it because it captures my mum’s great laugh, which is still going strong …
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum – keep smiling!
And of course Happy Mother’s Day to all mums.
I had the most perfect Mother’s Day yesterday, beginning with my teenage son bringing me a cup of tea in bed – bliss! My daughter and her boyfriend then visited for the day and took me to Killerton House, a National Trust property, for a four-course Mother’s Day lunch. They stayed overnight so we had a fun-filled evening at home afterwards, and I went to bed a very happy (and over-stuffed, plus slightly tipsy) Mum.
Killerton House, Devon, Photograph © Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Killerton was built in 1778-9, and was home to generations of the Acland family. Architecturally the house is nothing very special – Pevsner called it a ‘plain 2-storey Georgian box’ – but it is set in 6,400 acres, and its wonderful garden, created by John Veitch, is a mecca for plant-lovers.
For me, the main attraction is its costume collection on the second floor. This had been closed on my previous visit, so I was delighted to see it yesterday. The current exhibition of historic dress is titled ‘Dressing up, Dressing Down’ and explores the numerous outfits that were required for different times of the day and occasions, from flower arranging at home in the morning, walking in the garden, afternoon visits, changing for dinner or a social event in the evening, and then again for bed.
Neither Pearl nor I thought we would have a problem with changing six or seven times a day, though I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being laced into this corset:
We happily tried on a number of replica costumes and hats available for visitors to dress up in, imagined the occasions we would wear them to, and picked handsome suitors from the eighteenth-century portraits of members of the Gentlemen’s Club that line the walls of the downstairs corridor. I must admit we were hard pressed to choose, and are happier with the men’s fashions of today and our current partners!
The women’s fashions were another story, and I would have loved to have worn this:
and to have walked in these shoes:
Downstairs we learnt all about beauty and medicine through the ages – including a very informative discussion about leeches! – and sampled hand-cream made from a historic recipe (hopefully not from the one that recommends collecting 50 snails and pounding them to a paste!).
Lunch was delicious, but the amount we ate put paid to any ideas of a long walk in the grounds afterwards – we were all ready to go home and lounge (if not snooze) on the sofas after puddings this size:
We soon perked up however and worked off some of the lunch by hula-hooping on the WiiFit, and then settled down to an evening of wine, snacks, Waking the Dead and dvds.
Thank you to my wonderful children for making my Mother’s day (and every day) so special. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am the luckiest mum in the world!Read More