Girlfriends Gustav Klimt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Girlfriends painting measured 99 cm by 99 cm. The technique used is oil on canvas. The original Girlfriends painting however, no longer exists because it was set on fire in 1945 by the receding German forces at Schloss Immendorf, Austria.

Particularly in his late artwork, Gustav Klimt employs homosexual love. In this Girlfriends painting, the figures of the women seem to be vanishing. The background mixes in an adorned ornamental area.

Gustav Klimt had changed traditional symbols with overly metaphorical sensuality, for instance, in the Girlfriends; in fact this made his artwork more upsetting and shocking. The public protest that came from different political, religious and artistic gatherings was extreme. Due to that, Gustav's three paintings of "Philosophy", "Medicine" and "Jurisprudence" were not exhibited on the top inside surface of the Great Hall. This was the final public commission agreed to by Gustav. All those three paintings were in the end burnt by the retiring NAZI forces in May of 1945.

During the days of the display opening, around 87 University members had publicly shown an outcry about Gustav Klimt's painting and requested the Education Ministry to put off the commission. They laid allegations that Klimt was showing uncertain ideas through uncertain forms.

A journalist from Vienna accused Gustav of being too ignorant to consider the matters affecting the commission. The scholars said the symbolism was too ambiguous and the Catholics condemned the nakedness in medicine (e.g in the Girlfriends) which they said was pornographic. To the scientists, philosophy looked like it was criticising the ideology of realism and facts. In spite of the controversy, the commission still took place through the backing of the Austrian Minister of Education.

During his final years as he geared on to old age, Gustav became obstinate and did not see any part of the human structure as ugly, disgraceful or ignoble and therefore he painted all of them (e.g the Girlfriends painting that depicts a nude woman). By that time he was a famous Artist in Austria but he was rebuked for bringing shame to Austria by his "pornography".

The Girlfriends painting is also known as "The lesbians".