"Philosophy-Medicine-Law" - Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt Between 1900 and 1904, Gustav Klimt finds himself in a scandal caused by three extraordinary paintings. The government ordered him to decorate the ceiling of the great hall of the University of Vienna in 1894. The tables are intended to represent the allegories of Philosophy, Medicine, and Law Faculties. It is expected to contribute to the glorification of science. But Klimt does a job that defies all traditional rules. On the days when these three paintings were exhibited, eighty-seven members of the university petitioned the ministry of education for the cancellation of the post. Klimt has been accused of presenting ambiguous and complex ideas.




Klimt has wrapped Philosophy, the first of these three paintings, in a mysterious cosmic cloud. It is erected like a monumental blind sphinx, emerging powerfully from behind, against the column of human bodies suffering at the hands of nature's forces. When Klimt presented Philosophy in its raw form to the public, it was accused by academia and media circles of obscenity and artistic inadequacy. An earlier version of the same work was shown for the first time at the World Exhibition in Paris and was praised by many critics in Paris. Although it won an award in the exhibition, Vienna's professors opposed this painting. Professors proposed a picture of the triumph of light over darkness. The artist, on the other hand, presented them with a work showing the victory of darkness over light.




In the Allegory of Medicine, which is the second of the faculty paintings and again caused a scandal, the body that is torn apart by fate is dragged in the river of life. In this river, all stages of life from birth to death are brought together. Klimt emphasized the inadequacy of medicine as a healing power against the dominance of destiny. He revealed the inability of science to cure disease. Even Hygieia, the goddess of health, turned her back on people. The public welcomed this work with deep concern and surprise.




In the third painting for the university, "Law," Klimt depicted a cursed man falling into the hands of snake-haired three goddesses (Truth, Justice, and Law) who, in Greek legends, were responsible for punishing criminals. The punishment to be inflicted by the goddesses surrounded by snakes was the deadly embrace of an eight-armed monster. This work was also met with hostility. Klimt was the subject of discussion in parliament. While what was expected of him was to reflect the triumph of light over darkness, Klimt expressed the sense of insecurity that human beings are in in the modern world.


Despite all these criticisms, Klimt completed the "Golden Fish" table that year. In this work, he painted a naked woman with her back turned. It was said that he made this painting as a response to his critics. Klimt, who received harsh criticism, decided to return the fee he received in 1904 and to take back his opposed works. After long correspondence, the Ministry finally gave up the rights to the paintings and Klimt had returned the payments made to him before. After the scandal created by the university project, he understood that public duties did not comply with artistic freedom, and these paintings were his last work on behalf of the state.


The paintings were moved to Immendorf Castle in southern Austria to protect them from the dangers of the Second World War. A fire started by the retreating SS troops on May 5, 1945, destroyed the castle along with its contents. Information on these works could be obtained from black and white photographs and a color copy of Hygieia, the main figure of the Medicine painting.


Altın Balık, 1901-1902


Klimt's paintings were accused of carrying traditional iconographic symbols. The lecturers had expressed their distress over Klimt's secret messages in all three pictures. In contrast to the indirect expressions mentioned in the accusations, Klimt illustrated what he wanted to express directly.


"Felsefe" İçin Çalışma


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"Tıp" Ayrıntı




Neret, G., (2006). Klimt, Birinci Basım, Taschen/Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul.

Çev:Kundakçı, D., (2004). Artbook Klimt Altın Renkli Bir Arka Plan ve Sezession, Birinci Baskı, Dost Kitabevi, Ankara.

-----------. Klimt, Birinci Baskı, Boyut Yayın Grubu, İstanbul.