Gustav Klimt was a much sought after portrait painter in Vienna at the turn of the century—from the 19th to the early 20th! Klimt not only captured a curious, lasting likeness that intrigued his models and their spouses (patrons!). There were more “traditionally-based portrait painters in Vienna” but, the rising middle class and devotees of the avant-garde were casting their gaze at Klimt for he offered something unique and mysterious.
It was well known in the Vienna art circles that Friederike Beer had already received a portrait by another painter in Vienna. Word got around the art community! Beer began to instinctively desire another portrait of herself but this time from Klimt. She knew he was selective in terms of accepting commissions for his portraiture skills. As Beer approached Klimt’s house/studio, she was somewhat prepared for a gruff response from the artist. After knocking at his residence’s door, Klimt answered and looked questioningly toward Beer. She indicated she wanted a portrait of herself by Klimt. The artist’s response acknowledged that she already was in possession of a portrait by a competent painter. Why was she asking him for another portrait of herself? Beer, hesitated but knew she better have a solid reason as Klimt’s selective repetition was well known in Vienna. After a brief moment, Beer gathered her wits together and responded: ”I was afraid he was going to turn me down and so I answered quickly that yes, this was certainly true, but that through Klimt I wanted to be made immortal, and he accepted that.”
What thoughts run through your mind when you read that this woman wanted another portrait of herself, this time by Klimt, and her expressed reason to convince him to paint her was “I wanted to be made immortal…”?