Great Britain

Gustav Klimt crossing the English Channel on his journey to London, circa 04/30/1906-05/01/1906, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung
© Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Gustav Klimt: Picture postcard from Gustav Klimt in London to Emilie Flöge in Vienna, 05/05/1906, private collection
© Leopold Museum, Wien

Gustav Klimt: Exhibitor's season ticket for the Imperial-Royal Austrian Exhibition 1906 in London for Gustav Klimt with his own signature, 1906, Albertina, Gustav Klimt Archiv
© ALBERTINA, Wien

Gustav Klimt took his first trip to Great Britain on the occasion of the “Imperial Royal Austrian Exhibition” in London in the spring of 1906. He was accompanied by the painter and graphic artist Carl Otto Czeschka, the architect Josef Hoffmann and the entrepreneur Fritz Waerndorfer, among others.

The “Imperial Royal Austrian Exhibition” was held in the district of Earl’s Court in London between May and October 1906. The expansive exhibition premises were easy to reach by public transport and comprised several halls with many special exhibitions, pavilions, restaurants and a park with a variety of entertainment possibilities. At the exhibition, Austria presented the economic, cultural and social diversity of its crownlands, and in particular the diversity of their arts (and crafts). The representatives of fine arts and Austrian arts and crafts included the Austrian Photographic Society, the Thonet brothers, the Wiener Werkstätte, the Vienna Secession, the Hagenbund, the Vienna Künstlerhaus and the women artists’ association Acht Künstlerinnen.

Klimt’s Stay in London
In late April, Gustav Klimt left Vienna together with Carl Otto Czeschka, Fritz Waerndorfer and others to contribute to the final setup of the exhibition in London – presumably especially the presentation of the Wiener Werkstätte. They took the Orient Express via Cologne and Brussels to Ostend, where they boarded a ferry to Dover on 30 April. In a letter dated 7 May 1906, Gustav Klimt gives a retrospective account of the crossing to Emilie Flöge:

“Ostend was deserted – journey by sea smooth and beautiful – almost boring – approximately twenty Viennese on board, ditto boring, – stunning first impression of the English coast in the mist – it appeared defiant and serious […].”

Only one day later, Gustav Klimt announced his arrival in London to his mother Anna and to Emilie Flöge by mail. In further messages, Klimt described London as a loud, dirty but also very lively and interesting metropolis. He visited several collections and theaters, but his correspondence with Emilie Flöge reveals that he was rather disappointed by both. On 4 May 1906, he wrote:

“Out of our 3 evenings at the theater we have already drawn 2 blanks.”

According to his messages, Klimt and some of his travel companions did not attend the exhibition opening. Gustav Klimt departed on 8 May 1906 and returned to Vienna via Dover, Ostend, Brussels, Berlin and Dresden.

Literature and sources

  • Sandra Tretter, Hans-Peter Wipplinger (Hg.): Gustav Klimt. Jahrhundertkünstler, Ausst.-Kat., Leopold Museum (Vienna), 22.06.2018–04.11.2018, Vienna 2018, S. 200.
  • Sandra Tretter, Peter Weinhäupl (Hg.): Chiffre: Sehnsucht – 25. Gustav Klimts Korrespondenz an Maria Ucicka 1899–1916, Vienna 2014, S. 47.
  • Tobias G. Natter, Franz Smola, Peter Weinhäupl (Hg.): Klimt persönlich. Bilder – Briefe – Einblicke, Ausst.-Kat., Leopold Museum (Vienna), 24.02.2012–27.08.2012, Vienna 2012.
  • Tobias G. Natter (Hg.): Gustav Klimt. Sämtliche Gemälde, Vienna 2012.
  • Alfred Weidinger (Hg.): Gustav Klimt, Munich - Berlin - London - New York 2007.
  • N. N.: Imperial-Royal Austrian Exhibition. Official Guide and Catalogue, Ausst.-Kat., Earl's Court (London), 20.06.1906–06.10.1906, London 1906.
  • Die Zeit, 06.05.1906, S. 4-5.
  • Aussteller-Dauerkarte der Imperial-Royal Austrian Exhibition 1906 in London für Gustav Klimt mit eigenhändiger Unterschrift (1906). GKA79, Albertina, Gustav Klimt Archiv.