Trivium Art HistoryGustav Klimt

Death and Life

Death and Life, 1915 — Gustav Klimt
178 cm198 cm

Death and Life is a Symbolist, Oil on Canvas Painting created by Gustav Klimt from 1910 to 1915. It lives at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. The image is in the Public Domain, and tagged Allegory, and Death in Art. Source

Gustav Klimt’s Death and Life painting is based loosely on the dance of death depicted in medieval and renaissance times as death coming to visit people in all ranks and positions in society. Usually death holds an hourglass or a scythe implying that everything has a time to pass and be reaped off the earth. Unusually, Gustav Klimt’s Death and Life depicts death holding a club which looks much more dangerous, animalistic and menacing.

The skull of death is looking towards life eagerly, inching its neck out and head forward like a predator inspecting its prey. Life is depicted in an arrested cornucopic architecture of human bodies, like a column of flesh showing old and young, male and female alike. There is a sense of generation after generation of human beings who have been or will be taken by death.

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