The German Democratic Republic in general and post-war Leipzig in particular do not seem to offer themselves for overt comparisons with fin-de-siècle Vienna. Striking connections between paintings of the Viennese Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the East German Sighard Gille (b. 1941), however, can aid in understanding the wider social and artistic context of both the GDR and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and their artists’ socio-political engagement. Gille’s ceiling painting Gesang vom Leben (1981) enriched the GDR discourse of social criticism similarly to how Klimt’s Faculty Paintings, Beethoven Frieze, and The Kiss enriched that of Vienna. In this talk, guest speaker Juliane Schicker will explore the painters’ urge to self-expression that revealed the shortcomings of their social environments and examined and criticized the status quos of the ruling entities. At the same time, Gille and Klimt were in one way or the other part of the artistic establishment of the regime, however, and incorporated representations of that regime into their work.
This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Austrian Studies, the Department of German, Scandinavian & Dutch and the Weisman Art Museum.