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A close up of Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"

Behind the canvas

New exhibit shines light on muses of Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka

By WITW Staff on January 9, 2016

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka have endured as three of the most revered Austrian artists in history. They are known for depicting women in bold, sometimes sexualized poses. But their muses — the women who posed for so many of their paintings, who inspired their creativity — remain shrouded in obscurity.

A new exhibit at the Belvedere in Austria seeks to breathe life into these silent figures of the canvas. “The Women of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka” introduces patrons to women like Eugenia Primavesi, Gerti and Edith Schiele, and Martha Hirsch, who were painted by Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka, respectively. The exhibit also explores the shifting social climate of the time, which saw women fight for gender equality and emancipation. Influenced by these new ideas, the artists painted their women staring determinedly at the viewer, shattering stereotypes of the bashful muse. All three painters appeared to have been obsessed with the female body, reflecting a rising recognition of women as sexual beings.

Egon Schiele's "Liegender weiblicher Akt", 1917
Egon Schiele’s “Liegender weiblicher Akt”, 1917

“More and more middle-class women protested and organized themselves into women’s movements, but it was women workers who led the way,” art historian Weidinger writes in a book that accompanies the exhibit. “They … explicitly demanded their rights and insisted on a re-evaluation and reinterpretation of gender roles.”

Read the full story at the Huffington Post.