Curator's Choice

Curator's Choice

June 6, 2012

Gustav Klimt rowing on the Attersee, ca. 1910
Photographer: Richard Teschner (1879-1948)
Vintage gelatin silver print
Neue Galerie New York

Gustav Klimt looked forward to his vacations spent on the Attersee as a way to escape the oppressive summer heat in Vienna. These sojourns were a chance to rejuvenate his spirits in the idyll of nature. Here, by the lake, he enjoyed a routine that blended both work and pleasure in a relaxed atmosphere. Klimt's letters from 1900 to 1903 to Marie Zimmerman, his mistress and mother of his two sons, Gustav and Otto, provide some insight into his vacation routine. He notes that he typically arose around 6 a.m. and then usually would paint in the woods. Afterwards, he would have breakfast and then go for a swim.

In fact, Klimt was a fitness enthusiast. He kept in shape by practicing a variety of sports–he swung Indian clubs, took up discus-throwing, played Skittles (a form of bowling), and enjoyed long walks daily–all as ways to counteract his ample appetite. In one letter to Zimmerman, he noted that he almost always had a second swim either before or after tea. In addition, he also wrote Zimmerman, "Every now and then I fit in a bit of rowing into the day's program in order to limber up."

What he did not mention to Zimmerman is that usually fashion designer Emilie Flöge accompanied him on these rowboat excursions. It is probable that her fashion salon, Schwestern Flöge (Flöge Sisters, 1904-38), made the indigo smock with embroidered decoration that he is wearing in this photograph.