Gustav Klimt paintings are everywhere in Vienna. But only one of his studios has survived as such. It is the closest you can get to the Art Nouveau painter’s working environment. I visited the Klimt Villa in the 13th district of Hietzing after a stroll through nearby Schönbrunn Palace. It’s the result of a tenacious attempt to restore authenticity in a place that has changed rapidly within a few decades. Here is what to expect:
What To See At Klimt Villa
Unter St. Veit is tranquil and suburban, just the opposite of Klimt’s previous studio places. The white neo baroque villa sits in the middle of vast park grounds. When Klimt used his studio there between 1911 until his death in 1918 the house and garden looked different. The building was a laid back single-level cottage boasting a wild romantic garden packed with fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, song birds and bumble bees. What is for sure: Klimt did not live in the luxurious villa you see. The name Klimt Villa is a little misleading but that’s what the building has locally been known for.
Klimt’s original cottage area on the ground floor was painstakingly restored to reflect his work place. As you enter, Klimt’s studio itself is flooded with light from a large rectangular window leading into the vast back garden. During his years at Feldmühlgasse, Klimt supposedly produced 12 paintings and hundreds of drawings in this studio. The easels show replicas of The Bride And Lady with a Fan which Klimt painted there. A couple of garments and drawings spread on the striped mattress.
The Klimt Villa isn’t about displaying originals. Most of the furniture there replicates the originals, based on photographs. Most Gustav Klimt artwork there consists of replicas. The Klimt sketches and drawings that cover halls and staircases are original, though. He drew hundreds of them in his cottage, such as this portrait of a woman sitting in an armchair.
The shortcomings in authenticity are overlaid by a devotion to reanimate the artist’s universe. The Klimt Society and the Trust of Artistic and Healing Education used Klimt’s only surviving studio to unfold what inspired Austria’s greatest painter: foreign art, women, nature’s dynamics, orchards, allegories and ornaments. Bringing back Klimt’s patch in Hietzing in an intimate setting complements the big museum hum drum.
Klimt loved East Asian art. The first exhibition room shows Japanese wood cuts amidst a slick Art Nouveau dinner table and chairs by Josef Hoffmann and a huge Jugendstil ornament rug. East Asian ornaments, colours, masks and above all female nudes fascinated and inspired Klimt. Many of his explicit female portraits were inspired by erotic Japanese prints. (Focusing on contemporary art outside Europe was part of the Secessionists’ quest of redefining art.) Remember Klimt’s paintings ‘The Kiss’, ‘Adele Bloch Bauer I’ or the ‘Tree of Life’ and East Asian art isn’t far off Klimt’s oeuvre.
The first floor and exterior have that romantic 1923 Viennese ‘Rosenkavalier’-style that the subsequent tenants chose. The parquet floors, curved wooden railings and lamps do provide that Twenties atmosphere.
The upper rooms display replicas of some of Klimt’s most famous paintings, such as Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Adele Bloch-Bauer II and Sunflowers. Apart from a piano used for regular concerts the first floor focuses on the space and paintings.
Out in the garden I’m taken by the grand staircase and delicate cast iron railings. When restoring the building the Federal Heritage Authority (Bundesdenkmalamt) decided against slashing the almost 100-year old villa to peel out Klimt’s original cottage. Fair enough. Though it should be quite easy to restore the original cottage garden. Klimt’s painting Orchard with Roses was created during his time at Feldmühlgasse in 1912 (photo). The actual garden looks very different.
Klimt had loads of cats in his cottage. When I visited the garden probably one of their successors crossed my path.
Opening Hours: 1st April to 31st December, Thursdays to Saturdays 10.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Tickets: EUR 10;
How To Get There: The easiest way to reach Klimt Villa is either by tramway 58 from Westbahnhof to Verbindungsbahn or by metro U4 to Unter St. Veit (400m walk).
Where to See Original Klimt Paintings: Vienna 1900 exhibition at Museumsquartier (Leopold Museum); world’s largest Klimt collection at Belvedere Palace; Wiener Werkstätte exhibition at Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art; Beethoven Frieze at Vienna Secession;