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By Alessandra Comini

An examination of the decorative symbolism of Viennese painter Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) in his portraits, allegories, and landscapes and their relationship to the sexual imperative addressed by Sigmund Freud.


Austria’s most influential and revered artist at the beginning of the last century was Gustav Klimt (1862–1918). Master of three genres—allegory, portraiture, and landscape—his alluring imagery, decorative colors, and sinuous line seduce the eye and stir the mind. His landscapes are studded with opulent symbols of regeneration and fecundity, while his philosophical allegories enact and question the eternal recurrence of life and death. During an age of lingering societal repression, Klimt’s riveting, sumptuous portraits of society women delivered an unmistakable and urgent message of sensuality. In this landmark study of Klimt and the cultural climate of imperial Vienna, Comini discusses the “reverse” parallel between Freud’s revelation of the supposed erotic content of dream symbols and Klimt’s obscuring of the manifest content—the sexual imperative—through cumulative and symbolic ornament. Her text brings a startling new dimension to the compelling art of a very private man.

Distinguished Professor of Art History Emerita at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, Alessandra Comini was awarded Austria’s Grand Medal of Honor for her books on Viennese artists Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Her Egon Schiele’s Portraits was nominated for the National Book Award and her The Changing Image of Beethoven is used in classrooms around the country. Both books in new editions are now available from Sunstone Press as well as The Fantastic Art of Vienna, Egon Schiele, and Schiele in Prison. Comini’s travels, recorded in her memoir, In Passionate Pursuit, also from Sunstone Press, extend from Europe to Antarctica and are reflected in her Megan Crespi Mystery Series: The Munch Murders, Killing for Klimt, The Schiele Slaughters, The Kokoschka Capers, The Kollwitz Calamities, and The Kandinsky Conundrum, all published by Sunstone Press.

“…valuable for scholars and Klimt lovers alike and an essential item for museums and libraries.” —Dr. Felizitas Schreier, President, Verein Gedenkstätte Gustav Klimt, Vienna

“Highly readable, impeccable in its scholarship, and pioneering in its interpretations, Alessandra Comini’s Gustav Klimt has been an invaluable introduction to the Austrian artist for years. More than any other author, Comini has shaped our perception of Klimt and his place in Vienna’s cultural life around 1900.” —Reinhold Heller, Professor of Art History and of Germanic Studies emeritus, The University of Chicago

“Art historian Alessandra Comini brings great scholarly passion and imaginative sympathy to her work on Gustav Klimt and the Viennese culture that formed him. Her groundbreaking research has illuminated the life and work of some of the twentieth century's most compelling artists as well as composers.” —Renée Price, Director, Neue Galerie New York, Museum for German and Austrian Art


8 1/2 X 11 Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-63293-450-5
132 pp.,$45.00

8 1/2 X 11 Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-63293-168-9
132 pp.,$26.95

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