Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein 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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Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein

The exquisite portrait of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein painted during the Vienna Secession period illustrates a classic Gustav Klimt oil on canvas piece conceived in 1903.

The muse was the draughter of Karl Wittgenstein, a wealthy mining family who was a prominent patron of Klimt who painted an array of works for the family. The family had found an immense amount of Klimt's work, including Life is a Struggle, Water Snakes I, and The Sunflower.

The muse of the painting, Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein, was a prominent high society lady who had a significant role within Vienna's art world. Karl had requested that the portrait of his daughter was painted upon her marriage, as she posed a beautiful white dress. Neither Klimt nor Margaret were pleased with the work, yet as Klimt changed elements within the piece to be more appealing, Margaret demised the work and hid it in the attic of her summer home.

Gustav Klimt's many famous paintings were based on his model upright position showcasing their powerful stance. While this piece illustrates a vertical pose, Margaret is seating gently with her body turned; a new style that Klimt used. The painting illustrates the woman seated at and angle with her body turned to the right, and face looking up. The woman's neck is elongated, showcasing her bare shoulders as the light catches their attention. The woman is dressed in a beautiful white and grey coloured dress, with an array of textures and patterns throughout the piece.

The off the shoulder dress, while was seen as a sexual piece during the time, tightly holds around the woman's bust, and then gently flows down. Vertical lines flow off of the bust of the dressing, intertwining into a loose piece of fabric in which the woman's arms are placed. The flowing fabric near the arms has a small white patter, illustrating snowflake like circles.

The dress continues into an apron-like section, covered in a small design of white flowers and leaves. The remainder of the dress beautiful falls to the floor, in a vertical stripe pattern of white and grey, with a few details of sideway lines. The dress falls to the floor, covering any glimpse or curve of her body. It is unknown whether the dress was indeed the woman's wedding dress, or a normal dress she picked for the occasion.

Alongside, Klimt's mosaic style that he used within his future most famous paintings is showcased within the portrait. Small patterned designs are illustrated throughout the dress, a technique Klimt use immensely. This up rises the question of whether Klimt had picked out the dress himself, or embellished these details.

The woman's face stares directly towards the horizon where the ceiling and wall meets. Her soft gaze analyzes the dent in a great deal of detail, as her mouth slowly slings open in amazement. The viewer feels that the woman greets their presence, yet poses for her portrait. Classic Austrian features fill the woman's face, with dark arched eyebrows, rich deep hair, a prominent nose and small orange lip. Klimt is known for adding rosy cheeks to all of his portraits, showcasing colour within their pale skin.

The background of the setting remains classic, not taking away from the model's presence. The wall is painted in a dark grey colour, gently blended with a blue undertone, flowing to a black chequered baseboard. The foor is a light green colour, again contoured through different brush strokes showcasing a vertical texture within the piece. The interesting piece within the painting that catches the viewer's attention is the gold mantel located above the woman's head. This gold plate is filled with black swirls throughout the piece, a common style that will influence the artist's work as he enters his gold phase.