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Klimt’s painting “Death and Life” targeted by the climate activists


Death and Life is an oil on canvas painting by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. The painting was started in 1908 and completed in 1915. The symbolism used by Klimt in Death and Life is bold and abrupt, making this a typically accessible artwork. His colour scheme is similarly aggressive, using un-diluted oils, straight onto canvas. The painting measures 178 by 198 centimeters and is now housed at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. In 1911 Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome.


\”Life and Death\” is an allegorical work, in which Gustav Klimt spent 8 years. It tells us about the eternal confrontation between life in all its manifestations and death waiting to happen at a distance. The composition consists of three conventional parts: on the left side the artist has placed the figure of Death and on the right group of people, symbolizing Life. Dark space between the left and right part of the picture separates them from each other, as if holding the dark priest and not allowing him to get closer to the living. The depiction thus covers people, young and old, with a focus on the adults at their best age. There is an over-representation of women in the painting which could refer to women as the source of all life. It could also reflect Klimt\’s preference for depicting women, preferably somewhat undressed. All the subjects are somewhat covered by cloth bearing numerous symbols.


Gustav Klimt was one of the famous Austrian artists of the 20th century known for his decorative style of painting. He created a large number of works of art with sexuality and women as the main subjects. The Kiss and a series of portraits of stylish Viennese matrons like Fritza Riedler and Adele Bloch-Bauer are among Klimt\’s best-known works. In addition to Klimt\’s fondness for nudity and comfort in depicting sexuality and sensuality, his work was also challenging to understand and confusing in its explanation, revealing how he dived into the Symbolism style. This includes his other two paintings done for the Great Hall, Philosophy and Jurisprudence.


Recently, Two climate activists poured oil over a Gustav Klimt painting in Vienna. The petroleum-like substance was emptied onto Death and Life (1908) at the Leopold Museum from what appears to be a hot water bottle. The protesters then attempted to glue themselves to the wall. The activists are part of the group Letzte Generation, who last month in Germany targeted the world’s most expensive Monet: Haystacks (1890), at the Museum Barberini, in Potsdam. Their actions are part of a growing climate protest movement in Europe involving demonstrations staged at museums and involving prized works of art.

🛢️EILT: Klimt\’s \”Tod und Leben\” im Leopold Museum mit Öl überschüttet🛢️

Menschen der Letzten Generation haben heute im Leopold Museum das Klimt-Gemälde \”Tod und Leben\” mit Öl überschüttet. Neue Öl- und Gasbohrungen sind ein Todesurteil für die Menschheit. pic.twitter.com/4QKAklB9Af

— Letzte Generation Österreich (@letztegenAT) November 15, 2022

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