KLIMT + RODIN: An Artistic Encounter

Marking the centenary of Rodin’s death in 1917 and that of Gustav Klimt in 1918, KLIMT + RODIN: An Artistic Encounter examines the diverse connections between these artists and their impact upon the art world. While Rodin is widely regarded as “the father of modern sculpture,” Klimt was a groundbreaking painter and a founding member of the modernist Vienna Secession movement.

This exhibition marks the first major survey in California of Klimt’s work. Sharing the galleries with the Legion of Honor’s important holdings of Rodin works will be examples from Klimt’s oeuvre on loan from public and private collections in the United States and Europe, including the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, which holds the world’s largest and finest collection of Klimt paintings anywhere.

Klimt and Rodin are known to have met only once, at the “Beethoven Exhibition” mounted by the Vienna Secession in 1902. Rodin was especially fascinated by the notion of the collaborative “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk) achieved through the mutually enriching juxtaposition of painting, sculpture, music, and installation design.

In depth

KLIMT + RODIN celebrates the legacies of these two pioneers, who each broke the reigning aesthetic boundaries of the time to find new vocabularies and create powerful agendas for modern painting and sculpture. Arranged in dialogue with the Legion of Honor’s acclaimed collection of Rodin works, the exhibition provides an incredibly rare opportunity for American audiences to see a range of signature works by the Austrian master Klimt, many of which will travel to the US for the first time.

This first major Klimt exhibition on the West Coast will survey the span of the artist’s practice. Among the 30 works by Klimt that will be exhibited are iconic paintings, such as Nuda Veritas (1899), Klimt’s response to the conservative views of the art establishment, on loan from the Österreichisches Theatermuseum; Upper Austrian Farmhouse (1911), in his landscape style, loaned by the Belvedere in Vienna; Portrait of Ria Munk III (1917) from the Lewis Collection; and The Virgin (1913), loaned from the National Gallery in Prague, in which Klimt’s use of color is on full display.

Setting the context for the exhibition are two seven-foot-tall panels reproduced from one of Klimt’s most celebrated works, the Beethoven Frieze (1902). The exhibition copy of the frieze gives American audiences a special opportunity to experience the iconic work outside of Vienna. Widely regarded as the start of Klimt’s “golden period”, the frieze was painted for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition in celebration of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and illustrates the human desire for happiness in a tempestuous world marked by suffering.

A key moment of the exhibition is the meeting between Klimt and Rodin in 1902. While Klimt, the president of the Vienna Secession, was still developing his signature style, Rodin was at the peak of his international fame. Vienna was honored to welcome the sculptor, who had exhibited several key works at the Vienna Secession — one of the most innovative manifestations of Viennese Modernism — the year prior. Rodin visited the exhibition in person and was fascinated by its temple-like space and the groundbreaking Beethoven Frieze, which lead to a meeting between the two artists. KLIMT + RODIN will stage another encounter between the two artists for the first time in more than a century.

Approximately 25 sculptures and works on paper by Rodin from the Museums’ collection provide visual dialogues with the works by Klimt. The exhibition is thematically arranged around the Vienna Secession, Rodin’s 1901 exhibition in Vienna, Rodin’s 1902 visit to Vienna, Klimt’s landscapes and Rodin’s surfaces, and the depiction of women — for both artists an eternal source of inspiration — exploring shared touch points and developments in the two artists’ practices throughout.

Klimt’s portrait style is represented through his modern paintings of society women, such as Portrait of Sonja Knips (1898), Johanna Staude (1917 – 18), and The Black Feathered Hat (1910), the latter from a period when the French influence in Klimt’s work was particularly strong. Also on view will be a number of erotic drawings, highlighting his preoccupation with the female body. Klimt’s landscape paintings, revealing his independence of form, represent another significant genre in the exhibition, as seen in Italian Garden Landscape (1913), with its expressive brushwork and color.

In the news

  • Full of swirling color, mosaic-like details and emotional power.

    Robert Taylor of the San Jose Mercury News,
  • Seriously sensual vibes.

    Ian Stewart of San Francisco Magazine,


Take a quick look at some of the works you’ll see in the exhibition with this trailer.

Gustav Klimt, Johanna Staude,1917 – 1918. Oil on canvas, 27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (70 x 50 cm). Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, inv. no. 5551


This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Presenting Sponsors: John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn, and Diane B. Wilsey. Curator’s Circle: Ray and the Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, The Harris Family, Carole McNeil, Gladyne Kenderdine Mitchell, and The Bernard Osher Foundation. Benefactor’s Circle: The Diana Dollar Knowles Foundation. Patron’s Circle: Frances F. Bowes, Lucy Y. Hamilton, Christine and Pierre Lamond, Diane L. Morris, and David A. Wollenberg. Additional support is provided by Alexandria J. Albers, Mrs. Connie Goodyear Baron and Dr. Barry C. Baron, George and Leslie Hume, Merrill Lynch, Thomas and Shelagh Rohlen, Dorothy Saxe, Sotheby’s, and Susan and Jim Swartz.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Currently on view