If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:3:35

Video transcript

we're in the Leopold museum in Vienna and we're looking at Gustav Klimt death and life lent is taking old or traditional scenes and reworking them and making them wildly contemporary wildly modern this is loosely based on the subject of the dance of death which is a medieval subject showing death coming to people of all ranks the idea that death comes to everyone whether you're a peasant or priest or Prince usually death holds an hourglass or a side but here and I think this is very unusual death holds a club and looks much more dangerous and menacing this cult is looking towards life eagerly when I say life I'm referring to the Siq you mutilation this was architecture of human bodies old and young and newborn there's the sense of generations and generations of human beings who have been taken by death if you look at the overlapping of those bodies there really is a sense of succession of movement forward in time but not towards anything they do seem swept along as though in a dream that idea of their eyes closed of the dream I think is really important this notion of the subconscious or of the dream state was something that was being developed by Freud in Vienna at this time we should say that there are two exceptions to those eyes being closed one is the infant and there is a kind of instinctual aspect there this is not yet a learned consciousness and the other eyes that are open are those of the young woman on the extreme left she seems almost crazed almost delusional to me it reads like death on one side and pleasure or sensuality on the other there is a real mirroring that I think both figures are intensified because of the other your hands are even somewhat together one holding the club one clutching her rest we see on both sides that characteristic decorative patterning that we assess with gustav klimt so much on the side of death we see very dark colors and the shape of a cross clearly an allusion to the church and maybe the resurrection or afterlife on the right much brighter colors shapes that suggest flowers decorative patterns that suggest renewal that pattern it really tends to flatten the entire image in Europe at this time if you see an interest in the interior in dream states in a removal from the everyday world a kind of reaction against the materialism and quick pace of modern industrial life his interest in instinctive drives has particular significance in Vienna even more than the symbolist movements in other countries at this time it does seem to me to be a really successful solution to a problem that artists had been grappling with for some time which is how do you rescue the profound qualities that art had been able to achieve in history without resorting to history painting or the traditional modes that had been so worn out by the end of the 19th century was it possible to find a new arena to explore and they did but that arena was an interior one you