Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) created not only landscapes and portraits but also large-scale allegories, including The Bride
and The Virgin
. The black-and-white photograph from Klimt’s estate, which was taken by Moriz Nähr (1859–1945), shows the large-scale oil painting Death and Life
in its first version. When the work was first shown in the 1911 International Art Exhibition
in Rome, it earned Klimt a gold medal. This version of the work has survived through a color lithograph from the Miethke portfolio, a color illustration in the art magazine Kunst für Alle
from 1913 and through Nähr’s photograph. A reworked, final version would be shown in 1916 at the Berlin Secession. Klimt’s composition appears like a condensation of fundamental design motifs on the cycle of life, of coming into being and passing away: on the left side, we discern the personification of death, and on the right the three-part cycle of life represented by a mother and child, and old woman and an amorous couple. While the solitary death inclined his head in a static manner in the first version, the final work sees this figure confronting life in an almost dynamic fashion with a raised small red cudgel. Additionally, Klimt extended the number of figures in the 1915/16 version to include a total of nine persons. Klimt was especially interested in the public presentation of his works. To this end, he regularly commissioned his favorite photographer Nähr to document his paintings in photographs.