Iconographic Program and Symbolism

“Three important innovations can be observed in Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze: the two-dimensional depiction and the monumental isolation of the human figure, the expressive use of the line, and the dominant role of ornament. Klimt’s participation in the Beethoven experiment marks the beginning of his famous ‘golden period.’ Today, the monumental allegory is seen as a key work in the artist’s development.”
(Marian Bisanz-Prakken, The Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secession, in Gustav Klimt – Beethoven Frieze, Vienna Secession, 2002)

The theme of the frieze is based on Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The three painted walls, beginning with the lateral wall on the left, lay out a cohesive narrative of man’s quest for happiness.

First Long Side Wall

Gustav Klimt, Beethoven Frieze: Genii, Suffering Humanity, Knight in Shining Armor

Gustav Klimt, Beethoven Frieze: Genii, Suffering Humanity, Knight in Shining Armor

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Narrow Wall

Gustav Klimt, Beethoven Frieze: The Hostile Forces

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Second Long Side Wall

Gustav Klimt, Beethoven Frieze: The Arts, Choir of Angels, Embracing Couple

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