This paper identifies a lineage of works through which Gustav Klimt developed his portrayal of the allegorical female nude, beginning with the 1898 drawing Fish Blood. This drawing set a precedent for the modernizing geometric stylization advocated by Klimt and his organization, the Vienna Secession, and was printed specifically for their mouthpiece, the Ver Sacrum magazine. Its lineage, both thematic and aesthetic, continued through his paintings Bewegtes Wasser (1898), Water Serpents I (1904), and Water Serpents II (1907). The social context of Vienna 1900, the stylization of the Secession’s modernist work, and Klimt’s abstruse attitudes towards the portrayal of women, are all identified as being fueled by contradictory impulses which informed the formation of this series. By examining Fish Blood and its descendants, which portray their figures in ambiguous, underwater environments, the author also identifies nationalistic, mythological, and psychosexual dimensions to Klimt’s independent allegorical works. Exploration of these dimensions in relation to the social context in which the works were formed allows the author to examine Klimt’s approach to the portrayal of women in his independent artwork – an approach that at at once allegorizes and sexualizes its figures, revolving around their alternating threat and appeal to the male viewer.
Lexis Horvath is a graduating senior with a major in art history and a minor in art. She is from Hillsdale, NJ, and transferred to Rutgers after receiving an Associate’s Degree at Bergen Community College. She is the outgoing President of Rutgers’ Art History Student Association, and has been employed as a gallery attendant at Rutgers’ Zimmerli Art Museum since 2017. Lexi spent the 2018-19 school year as a Resident Assistant, and even had the pleasure to spend a month studying art history in Rome last summer. She looks forward to applying to graduate school after gaining more internship and work experience. She would like to thank her parents for their unwavering support in her education, and her friends on the RAHSA executive board for their heartening company. She would also like to thank Professor Yanni for her help and encouragement this past Fall, and her advisors Brittney Bailey and Professor Sidlauskas for their invaluable guidance throughout this project.