Golden treasures illuminate The Belvedere

Austrian museum holds impressive collection of Klimts 

A print of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss.

Standing amidst masterpieces can make you feel miniscule,  especially when those works of art call a palace home. 

During my visit to Vienna in late August, I ventured to The Belvedere — two late-Baroque palaces turned into an art museum — to view some of the world’s most coveted works of art.  

While the museum is fit for art fanatics like me to come and admire the work of Austrian artists, such as Gustav Klimt, Max Oppenheimer and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, it’s also a site for history buffs.  

Unknown to many visitors, several of the pieces that decorate the walls of the museum are recovered works of art that were stolen by Nazis during WWII. While many of the paintings and sculptures are simply beautiful, their stories stretch beyond their frames. 

Walking through the palace was like being inside a work of art. 

The vaulted ceilings towered over me and the royally furnished rooms would be enough of a feast for the eyes without their bold artistic decorations.  

There would be too much to discuss in this article, but I can’t  mention that in addition to its history, The Belvedere is also home to the most impressive collection of Klimts in the world, hosting a whopping 24 oil paintings by the iconic artist. 

Gustav Klimt was a prominent Austrian oil painter, infamous for his erotic subject matter, and above all, his Golden Period — a phase wherein he literally used gold leaf to accent his work. 

I’ve been a huge Klimt fan since I was young; a large-scale print, entitled Water Serpents,  currently fills the wall of my student bedroom. It was surreal to finally be in the presence of Klimt’s work, to fully experience the colours and textures no copy can capture. 

As I moved around the room dedicated to his work, I experienced the development of his highly-praised style, from his first naturalist painting all the way to his ornamental masterpieces. 

I finished the exhibition with Klimt’s most noted piece and one of my favourite paintings to date — The Kiss

The Kiss depicts an emotional scene of lovers embracing. Klimt showered the lovers with golden hues and textures taking an ordinary scene of affection and making it into a otherworldly, but painfully beautiful illustration.  

While the painting was smaller than I’d expected, it illuminated the room. There was a large crowd surrounding the small yet striking piece, but I managed to worm my way to the front to get a glance at one of the most coveted paintings in the world. 

It was a regal painting, fit for a grand palace.

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