Why is Google honoring Gustav Klimt with a golden doodle?

Google's gilded Doodle today honors Austrian painter Gustav Klimt's 150th birthday.

Google
Google's logo, a tribute to artist Gustav Klimt. Contains a detail of 'The Kiss' (1907-1908) by Klimt.

Google adorned its homepage today with a Doodle commemorating the 150th birthday of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, known for his elaborate and beautiful Art Nouveau paintings, his rejection of the prevailing conservative art styles of the day, and his sometimes controversial, frank depictions of eroticism. 

Most of Klimt's best-known work, and the inspiration for today's Doodle, come from his so-called "Golden Phase," a period marked by Klimt's extensive use of gold-leaf, and his greatest career successes. Google has incorporated into its logo a detail of The Kiss (1907-1908), a gilded square painting that depicts a couple embracing, entwined in decorative yellow robes, inspired by the 19th century's Arts and Crafts movement, as well as the newer Art Nouveau style.

In 1897, Klimt resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists along with several other painters, sculptors, and architects, forming the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession), a movement crystalized not around one style, but rather around a rejection of the traditional Historicism of the Association. He also served as the organization's president. Members strove to create new styles independent of historical tradition. Many members produced highly decorative works, and the group's exhibitions helped to familiarize Austria with innovative new works, including the paintings of the French Impressionists. 

Most of Klimt's paintings depict figures, usually women. He never painted a self portrait, writing: 

"I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women...There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night...Who ever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures."

Not all of Klimt's work was appreciated in his lifetime, though. Frank depictions of sexuality alienated some viewers. At the turn of the century, murals commissioned by the University of Vienna were called pornographic, prompting a public outcry. The murals were never displayed, and were later destroyed by retreating Nazis. Klimt seemed unperturbed by the controversy, however. 1899's Nuda Verita contains an inscription reading, "If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad." Later work would prove even more controversial, particularly the posthumous Fünfundzwanzig Handzeichnungen (Twenty-five Drawings), which contained a large amount of erotic material.

Klimt's legacy and influence are debated by art historians, though he remains a very popular artist. One work, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, sold for a record $135 million in 2006, at the time the highest price ever paid for a painting. His work will be shown throughout Vienna this year to celebrate his 150th birthday, and he has been celebrated on two euro coins, once in 2003 and again in 2012. His best-known work may be a century old, but time has not diminished its power or beauty. It still has the power to inspire today.

For more on how technology intersects daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.