This piece was commissioned by the Burgtheater along with a series of other murals and paintings to reverence the history of this renowned venue. The theater was set to be put to an end, and these series of portraits were supposed to illustrate the thousand people that made part of the history of Burgtheater and spent a great deal of their time there.
In this painting, the artist portrays the venue from the perspective of the stage, looking into the crowd. The academic painting style had been very characteristic of the beginning of his career, where his paintings would be more realist and precise rather than stylized and colorful.
An interesting thing about this piece is that Klimt painted over 150 small individual portraits with near photographic precision of people who would attend the theater, like the famed composer Brahms, the prime minister of Austria and Vienna’s mayor and even some controversial figures like the actress Katherina Schratt, the emperor’s mistress.
The spectator is looking from the stage into the audience and upwards, so it’s possible to observe the beautifully embellished ceiling of the venue, framed by the top row of cabins and spectators. From the central ornament, an intricate bright chandelier drops above the middle seats.
From the ceiling, four U shaped rows of cabins full of spectators outline the perspective of the piece. The rows get emptier as we move down, and a set of draperies are hung from the cabins nearest to the stage to the left.
Near the bottom of the canvas, in the middle, features red velvet chairs and a crowd of spectators. Some chairs are folded, and some people are standing and talking to each other. There is a great number of men in suits and well-dressed women, and at first sight, they might seem similar, like a template. But on a closer look, it’s possible to realize that Klimt worked his way through each portrait and properly accentuated the different textures of the draperies and dresses.
This painting was made during the years of 1888 to 1889 and is currently part of the collection of Vienna Museum in Austria.
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