The 1895 painting Music I portrays a woman strumming a lire to the left of the composition, where the lyre occupies a large central golden area and to the right of the painting, a sphinx facing front. This is a painting from Klimt’s early career and is one of the pinnacle pieces of his famed Art Nouveau style, very popular in the 19th century.
The woman to the left of the painting strums the lyre as she wears a bulky black dress and her red cloudy, curly hair is locked up with a white head dressing. She also wears a golden choker. The woman has slim proportions and skinny arms contrasting with her large dress. She has a neutral, almost trance-like facial expression but the volume and details on her face and skin are delicate yet powerful.
The lyre has more defined lines than the woman. It’s possible to see a lot of details, even the thin cords, among other pieces of the instrument. The central area of the background is textured by colored lion teeth, which would symbolize the spread of new ideas, a very common characteristic to both the visual arts and music of the 19th century. The lion teeth lay over a greyish blue background color.
On the far right side, balancing the layout, there is a sphynx. This is a point where Klimt would boost the freedom of creativity and encourage new experimentations, an ideal that would become one of the main goals of the Secession movement, to which Klimt would become one of the founders and most important members. Visually, Klimt would represent this ideal with ornamental elements created in vivid colors, that soon became characteristic of his style.
This piece was commissioned by the Greek Nikolaus Dumba, a Maecenas of the arts. The piece would decorate a music room at the Palais Dumba, in Vienna. The painting was created to be accommodated over the door of the music room. Eventually, the Palais was eliminated and the piece, along with other art pieces, sold. It is currently located in Munich, Germany, at the Neue Pinakothek.
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