Klimt's Girl Friends
a re-evaluation from Chris Wayan's journal 1998/7/4
I just saw a painting by Gustave Klimt: Girl Friends, 1916-17, a portrait of a lesbian couple.
One of them looks very strange--snake-eyed, with tiny pupils. Yet to me, she's still warm and likable. A really odd combination of feelings! From the breasts down, Snake Girl's body has clearly been squeezed out of a toothpaste tube, all long and wobbly. Why does Klimt do this? He knows anatomy; her girlfriend's body seems reasonable.
And the painting does form a highly decorative pattern, typically Klimt. The two, particularly that red robe, fit into that lurid wallpaper of fantastic birds. Why not? Aren't they just two more?
Yet psychologically it's deep portraiture. Makes me want to re-examine his other paintings. I've seen his portraits of women as fantasies--sort of a fine-art Frazetta, plus gold leaf to up the price. What if they're really psychological studies too?
Yes, a lot of my images are as pinuppy as Klimt's because I like sexy and colorful and decorative, but I never think of those images as sex OBJECTS. I don't like seeing anyone as objects. Let alone myself! Subjects. I'm all about subject. Trying to make you identify. With that woman. With that horse. With that snake. Whoever.
So now I wonder about Klimt and his friends... and what ELSE besides lesbian survival strategies might be hiding behind all that gold leaf.
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