Trivium Art History
Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Emilie Flöge

Portrait of Emilie Flöge, 1902 — Gustav Klimt,
181 cm84 cm

Emilie Flöge was a fascinating member of the Viennese bohemian circles and the life companion of the painter Gustav Klimt. In 1891, Helene, the younger sister of Emilie, married Ernst Klimt, the brother of Gustav Klimt, but when Ernst died in December 1892, Gustav was made Helene's guardian. At that time Emilie was 18 years old and Gustav became a frequent guest at her parents’ home, spending the summers with the Flöge family at Lake Attersee. After 1891, Klimt portrayed her in many of his works. Experts believe that his most famous painting, The Kiss (Klimt painting), shows the artist and Emilie Flöge as lovers. Klimt also drew some garments in the rational dress style for the Flöge salon - a style promoted by the feminist movement - and from 1898 other clothes designed by the Vienna Secession; the latter were worn without a corset and hung loosely from the shoulders with comfortable, wide sleeves. However, the clientele for what was at that time a revolutionary fashion was too small to provide a living and she accordingly earned money through conventional styles. Klimt was painting many ladies from the upper echelons of Viennese society and thus able to introduce Emilie Flöge to a prosperous client base. In the final days of the Second World War, her house in the Ungargasse caught fire, destroying not only her collection of garments but also valuable objects from the estate of Gustav Klimt. She had inherited half of Klimt's estate following his death in 1918, the other half going to the painter's family. When Klimt died from a stroke on 11 January 1918, his last words were reportedly: "Get Emilie."

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Love of country and love of women — especially women