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Klimt and Rodin: an Artistic Encounter at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco is currently displaying Klimt & Rodin: An Artistic Encounter exhibition to commemorate the centenaries since the deaths of the two grand masters of Modernism.
The Legion of Honor had already celebrated Auguste Rodin centenary with a display which officially ended in April 2017. However, the Fine Arts Museum kept his sculptures in place and jointed them with the works by Gustav Klimt for the artistic dialog between the Modernist masters in museum premises, which actually reminds us of their one and only encounter during the artists' lifetime.

The meeting of Klimt and Rodin at the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition in 1902 is the key moment of the present display. At that time, Klimt, the president of the Vienna Secession, was just developing his own artistic style, while Rodin was at the height of his international fame. Auguste Rodin exhibited several major artworks at the Vienna Secession in 1901 and was acknowledged as the most innovative Modernist sculptor of the time. So, Viennese art critics and artists were honored to see him the following year when he visited the 1902 exhibition in person.
Klimt was more than pleased by Rodin’s confession at the exhibition, "Never before [have I] experienced such an atmosphere — your tragic and magnificent Beethoven fresco, your unforgettable, temple-like exhibition, and now this garden, these women, this music."
XIVth Vienna Secessionist exhibition in 1902, view from the left-hand aisle covered with Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze to the main hall with Klinger’s statue of Beethoven. Photo: Archive of Secession
This year, visitors of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco have a chance to see two seven-foot-tall panels reproduced from Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze outside of Secession building in Vienna, where the original is being kept. And now it is accompanied by Auguste Rodin’s statues, not Max Klinger’s as in 1902.

Widely regarded as the start of Klimt’s "golden period", the frieze was based on Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It was painted in celebration of the composer "illustrating the human desire for happiness in a tempestuous world marked by suffering."
Klimt and Rodin: An Artistic Encounter at the Legion of Honor, The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, USA. Photo: courtesy of

"Klimt & Rodin" stages another encounter of the two artists for the first time in more than a century.

The exhibition is home to approximately 25 Rodin sculptures and works on paper from the Fine Arts Museums' collection; it builds visual dialogues with 33 works by Klimt, including 17 paintings.

The aim of the display is to show the American audience an atmosphere of the Vienna Secession, the insight into Austria of the early 20th century, and to explore shared touch points and events in the art practice of the two grand Modernist artists.
Klimt and Rodin: An Artistic Encounter at the Legion of Honor, The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, USA. Photo: courtesy of
"This will be an exceptional and breathtaking opportunity to experience the art of Gustav Klimt in San Francisco," says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "And as a native Viennese, I am especially proud that we are able to present the beloved works by Klimt at the Legion of Honor. With our important Rodin collection, we are perfectly situated to engage Klimt’s masterpieces in dialogue with Rodin’s oeuvre."

The interplay between art, music and the beauty of female body is the main object of the exhibition in San Francisco

Klimt’s portrait style is displayed through his well-known paintings of women, such as Portrait of Sonja Knips (1898), Johanna Staude (1917−18), and The Black Feathered Hat (1910).

Examples of Klimt’s landscape
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paintings represent another significant genre in the exhibition, as seen in Italian Garden Landscape (1913), with the artist’s signature expressive brushwork and color.
Klimt’s erotic drawings and Rodin’s erotic statues highlight their preoccupation with the beauty of female body.

Auguste Rodin. The Kiss
The Kiss
1882, 59.1×36.2×37.9 cm
"Rodin's work represents modernity in sculpture and the rejection of the academic tradition, and has inspired admirers and followers all over the world," says Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European decorative arts and sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums. "It's a great pleasure to be able to show our extraordinary holdings with a rich trove of paintings and sketches by Klimt from significant collections around the world."
The exhibition Klimt and Rodin: An Artistic Encounter is on view from October 14, 2017 through January 28, 2018 at the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, CA.