• Orchard with Roses Gustav Klimt 1912

    Gustav Klimt and the Promise of the Rose

    He found inspiration in nature: The painter Gustav Klimt was one of the most important representatives of Art Nouveau and cofounder of the Viennese Secession, as well as a connoisseur of everything beautiful in life. Aside from the grace of his muses, he was also fascinated by the aesthetics of roses.

    Klimt and the Promise of the Rose Garden

    “With a woman who is in love, one can do anything she wants,” is a thought-provoking quote from one of the most illustrious Austrian painters ever, the Art Nouveau artist Gustav Klimt. He knew how to capture attention, both with his art as well as his unique personality and savoir-vivre. How the painter, who preferred to spend his days dressed in a blue shift, won over so many hearts remains his secret. One can safely assume that the rose, queen of all flowers, might have played an important role not only in his paintings, but also in his courtship. Like no other flower, the rose signals love and passion - a promise the sensual artist could not withstand.

    Klimt loved and admired women, and although he was never married, he had seven children with several women. Aside from his passionate affair with his muse Emilie Flöge, his “affaires d’amour” with the 19 year-old Alma Schindler (who later became Alma Mahler-Werfel) as well as numerous models such as Maria Ucicky and Marie (Mizzi) Zimmermann, are well known. His relationship with the emancipated fashion designer Emilie Flöge, however, lasted his entire life. She seems to have been his “Lebensmensch”.

    Klimt roses detail

    Klimt revered women like Emilie Flöge - emancipated, charismatic and with a will of their own.

    • The rose as symbol for passion. “Der Rosengarten,“ one of the most famous nature paintings by Gustav Klimt, was created in 1912. Klimt, founding president of the groundbreaking Viennese Secession, was a gardening enthusiast. The square painting, which is privately owned, shows the garden of his refuge in the Feldmühlgasse in Vienna which was inhabited by Klimt and numerous cats. At the suggestion of one of his patrons, the “hermit of Unter St. Veit” moved there after his studio in the Josefstädter Straße 21 had been torn down. At the time, a small garden hut overlooking an impressive flower garden stood on the property that is now known as the “Klimt Villa” in today’s 13th District. Klimt was fascinated by the garden. Every year he had it replanted. He was really proud of this sea of flowers and colors, and always took new visitors on a tour of the garden before showing them his studio and his work.

    • Every year, Klimt had the garden surrounding the house in the Feldmühlgasse planted with flowers, it was a joy to arrive amid blossoms and old trees,” wrote the expressionist Egon Schiele of his fatherly friend’s creative home. The Klimt-Villa in Hietzing, whose garden house the painter used as studio and workshop during his last creative period, as well as its idyllic, 6.500 square meter (1.6 acre) garden can still be toured today. The artist preferred to paint sitting on a small wooden stool in front of his easel. His gaze was directed either towards the colorful garden or a large daybed that took up much of the room and which presumably served as prop for his models. After all, a considerable part of Klimt's OEuvre was dedicated to women. From 1921 until his death in 1918, this is where the artist created many of his most important works. More than 50 paintings were completed here, among them world-famous, strong and sensual portraits such as „Adele Bloch-Bauer II“, „Friederike Beer“, „Die Braut“ and „Adam und Eva l.”

    • Studio and garden today. What makes the architecture of the house so interesting? In the 1920s, Klimt’s studio was incorporated, largely intact, into a much bigger, picturesque villa. Much like the garden’s roses, which Klimt committed to eternity in his paintings. Right after Klimt’s sudden death in 1918, Egon Schiele immediately called for “the house including garden and furniture” to be bought and preserved in its original form.

      Unfortunately, things initially did not go according to his wishes - garden and studio were sold, expanded on, nazified, restituted and then bought by the state. After it had been used as a school and storage space, the villa fell into disrepair and the rose garden became overgrown. It was about to be demolished when it was saved through a civic initiative and revitalised by the Republic of Austria, who renovated the studio according to original plans. In 2014, the „Klimt Villa“, by then a museum run by a private company, was declared a European Cultural Heritage.

    • The garden was replanted as well: The garden’s main attraction used to be the damascene roses, which had originally been planted there around 1900. To reconstruct the garden, the so-called “Klimt-Rose” was re-bred by a Viennese gardening expert. „He grafted shoots that he took from two original plants onto wild roses. 22 of these new growths were planted during the partial reconstruction of the garden,” Baris Alakus, Director of the Klimt-Villa explained.

      Klimt's rose enchants with its soft rose color, in the artist’s paintings as well as in the Klimt Villa’s garden today. It is well known that pink roses generally symbolize “youth, beauty and infatuation” - three characteristics that make it a perfect gift at the beginning of a relationship. Which might be a useful clue in the mystery of Klimt’s success in wooing beautiful women...

    Gustav Klimt

    • His life
      1862 - 1918
    • Home
    • Place of Inspiration
      Lake Attersee
    • Art
      Art Nouveau and Co-Founder of the Vienna Secession
    • His masterpiece
      The Kiss (1908/09)
    • His golden years
      „golden period“ in his art (1899 bis 1910)

    About the Artist

    He was arguably one of the most vibrant Austrian painters ever: Gustav Klimt. Born in 1862, in Baumgarten bei Wien, he started his career with history paintings. Starting around 1890, he developed his distinct expressionistic style with the typically shaped ornaments. In 1897, he left the Künstlerhaus and co-founded the Viennese Secession – as a challenge to the state’s restrictions on artistic expression. Klimt’s penchant for enjoying the finer things in life is legendary and found its expression among other things in opulent dinner parties. His numerous affairs with ladies of high-society are still subject of much speculation today.

    In the Footsteps of Gustav Klimt