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  CREATIVE DESTRUCTION. Gustav Klimt, the Beethoven Frieze and the Controversy about the Freedom of Art. 6 October to 14 JanuaryBeethoven Frieze (central part), 1902
Beethoven Frieze Preparatory Study for Beethoven Frieze, 1902
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Beethoven Frieze (central part), 1902
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

In the late 19th century Vienna was the setting for transformations relating to the changing times, and the city was witness to the destruction of the old and the creation of the new. The painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) symbolised more than any other figure, and particularly between 1894 and 1907, that paradoxical “creative destruction”, to use Joseph Schumpeter’s phrase. Events in the artist’s own life between those years resulted in a complete break in his work. The polemics and controversy surrounding the monumental paintings commissioned from the artist for the ceiling of the Great Hall of Vienna University and his mural painting on Beethoven included the XIVth Exhibition of the Secession in 1902 were key works for the future of Klimt’s career and also signified the new order that came about at the turn of the century.

The present exhibition aims to set out this story in visual terms. At its heart is the Beethoven Frieze from the Belvedere in Vienna, as well as some of the most important preparatory drawings for its figures, which reveal the creative process behind this masterpiece. The frieze, displayed in its original order, is accompanied by Max Klinger’s Bust of Beethoven, a reduced version of Klinger’s sculpture that formed the centrepiece of the 1902 Secession exhibition.

The exhibition also includes a selection of around 50 drawings and preparatory studies for the paintings for the three university faculties – Medicine, Jurisprudence and Philosophy – that were destroyed in World War II. They are featured here in the form of contemporary reproductions enlarged to life-size. The display is completed by documents, sketchbooks by Klimt, lithographs, decorative reliefs, issues of the magazine Ver Sacrum, originals for the posters for various Secession exhibitions, preparatory sketches and a selection of oil paintings by Klimt and other contemporary and earlier artists related to the subject of exhibition.

The works on display have been loaned by the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, the Albertina Museum, the Wien Museum, and other German and American museums and private collections.