In 1894, the University of Vienna entered into a discussion with Austrian artist Gustav Klimt regarding three paintings for the Great Hall of the university. Klimt and the university officials came to an agreement on all the relevant issues and the artist began to fulfill the commissioned requirements. The theme of the commissioned paintings was “The Victory of Light Over Darkness” and Klimt was to focus on the university’s academic excellence in the fields of Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence (Law).
Klimt began to do serious research on his three academic themes and, by 1900, was busy transforming his ideas and sketches onto the canvas. His progress was thematically exhibited at various Secessionist exhibitions in Vienna. When his painting for Medicine was presented for exhibition, a scathing editorial criticism was published in the Medizinische Wochenschrift journal which complained the “painter had ignored doctors’ two main achievements, prevention and cure”. Criticism of Philosophy and Jurisprudence was no better. Klimt was also turned down for a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1901 by the government which refused to ratify the Academy’s action. Klimt was offended by the criticism and the government’s overturning the Academy’s desire to bring the artist on the faculty. Klimt’s reaction was swift: “I’ve had enough of censorship…I reject all state support, I don’t want any of it.” (Gottfried Fleidl, Gustav Klimt 1862-1918)
What are your thoughts on governmental intrusion in the hiring practices of the Academy of Fine Arts and the university’s bureaucratic blindness to artistic interpretation with the Great Hall ceiling murals?
Klimt, Philosophy, 1899-1907
Klimt, Medicine, 1899-1907
Klimt, Jurisprudence, 1899-1907