Gustav Klimt's Athena
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Women are the predominate subject of Gustav Klimt’s oeuvre, from his beautiful portraits of women patrons and acquaintances, to his murals for the Old Burgtheater, University, and Kunsthistorisches Museum. One woman who appears multiple times in Klimt’s work is the goddess Athena. Athena is the goddess of wisdom, military victory, reason, intelligent activity, and arts and literature. With these attributes in mind we begin to take a closer look at the works of art that Klimt included Athena in, the context that the figures are placed in, and for what purpose they were made. Did Klimt portray Athena in a certain way to highlight one of her attributes? Why was Athena a recurring figure for Klimt? I will focus mainly on three of Gustav Klimt’s works that include Athena and look at the different ways he portrayed the goddess in each piece, including: the mural on the wall of the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna, the poster for the first Secession Exhibition, and his painting titled Pallas Athena. While there are a few other representations of Athena by Klimt, I will focus on these three, which are the most prominent and well known. I will also look at other representations of Athena found throughout the city of Vienna. In particular I will consider the fountain in front of the Parliament building, the mosaic at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, and the owls, a symbol of Athena, on the Secession building, to gain further insight into the importance of the goddess within the city of Vienna.