1911: “Gesamtkunstwerk” Palais Stoclet
In 1905, Gustav Klimt received a commission from the Brussels industrialist Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1979) and his wife Suzanne to design the walls for the dining room of their palace built by Josef Hoffmann between 1905 and 1911. To this day, it is regarded as the perfect example of a “Gesamtkunstwerk”, or total work of art, an idea postulated and aspired to by the artists of the Wiener Werkstätte founded in 1903. Numerous Viennese artists, among them Carl Otto Czeschka, Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel and Richard Luksch, played a part in the artistic décor of the Palais Stoclet. The overall cost of the building’s construction and lavish furnishings remains a secret to this day.
Gustav Klimt designed a frieze for the dining hall, which was executed using the most precious materials by the mosaic workshop of Leopold Forstner. While Klimt created the first preliminary designs as early as 1905, he later changed his concept and created the blueprints during his annual summer holidays on the Attersee in 1908, possibly with the help of his partner Emilie Flöge. It often took a lot of effort on Klimt’s part to motivate himself to work on the frieze.
The Stoclet Frieze consists of two almost identical parts on the longitudinal walls of the rectangular dining hall. The dominant motif on both sides is a tree of life, whose golden, spiral-shaped branches fill the picture plane. Blossoms, butterflies and birds add to the vibrancy of the image. The single standing figure on the left wall entitled Expectation corresponds to the depiction of an embracing couple on the right, called Fulfilment. Klimt would revisit the latter motif soon afterwards in his famous painting The Kiss. The depictions on the longitudinal walls are connected by the motif of the Golden Knight on the end wall. The palace is still owned by the Stoclet family and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.