The epitome of truth is death. Our all anxieties, insecurities in life, desires, failures all come to a halt with death. We may philosophize or fantasize death, but there is no denying that no one can ever escape the cold hands of the grim reaper. Poets, painters, musicians or scientists, all express death in many unique ways. One such representation is Gustav Klimt’s Death and Life – a painting which was honored with a first prize at the 1911 International Art Exhibition in Rome. Klimt believed that this was his most important figurative work.
Death and Life in the Leopold Museum
In 2013, while I was going through a terrible trauma personally, I met Death and Life, in the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria. I have always perceived death as the boundless, formless, infinite, eternal, undivided, unmoved and unchanging Reality. Klimt made my perception alive on his canvas, albeit his death has a form and symbol.
Before I go on to describe this fascinating painting, I must thank Leopold Museum, which allowed me to photograph the famous painting (without flash of course!).
Description of Klimt’s Death and Life
Death is on the left and is looking at life with a malicious grin. To the right, we see life. In life, every age group is represented, starting from the baby to the grandmother; life is perhaps a depiction of never ending circle. We see, a newborn child lying in the arms of his mother and a muscular man is holding one of the women. By over representation of women, Klimt perhaps wanted to emphasize the source of all life.
If one looks keenly the diverse faces of life, it is obvious that they are not threatened by death instead they seem indifferent.
My Realization on Klimt’s Death and Life
After seeing this painting, I felt, nothing could be more creative than death, since it is the whole secret of life. I remember a quote by Franz Kafka
The meaning of life is that it stops.
Klimt too had depicted this eternal truth through his canvas. Although life is represented on the flower bed, still the truth is death is waiting for everyone.