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Klimt and Carriera acquisitions for the Getty

November 17, 2009 | 12:01 am

Klimpt1 The J. Paul Getty Museum will unveil three recent acquisitions -- two figure drawings by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt and a pastel portrait by Italian painter Rosalba Carriera -- today in the museum’s South Pavilion Pastel Gallery at the Getty Center.

The works by Klimt, a leading figure in the Viennese Secessionist movement who is best known for sumptuous decorative pieces and mosaic-like paintings of women, are the first by the artist to enter the museum’s collection, said Lee Hendrix, senior curator of drawings. They also represent the museum's effort to "bring a more modern face to the collection," she said.

“Portrait of a Young Woman Reclining” is an 1897-98 work in black chalk thought to portray Viennese socialite Sonja Knips. The evocative, quietly erotic image depicts a dreamy-eyed woman with a pouf of upswept hair who rests her head on a pillow.

Klimpt2 The other drawing, “Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair,” is composed of black chalk and red pencil sketches portraying the rear view of a woman with a cascade of wavy locks. It was made about 1901-02 as a preparatory drawing for a Klimt painting, “Goldfish.” But the artist considered the drawing a work of art in its own right, Hendrix said.

Carriera Carriera’s “Sir James Gray, 2nd Baronet” is a spirited likeness of a young British gentleman in a powdered wig made about 1744-45 by a woman who excelled in the delicate medium of pastel. Her work has a remarkable air of spontaneity, rather like “the photography of its day,” Hendrix said. The portrait of the elegantly attired son of a British courtier is “less about rank and more about personality and dash and fun,” she said.

All three acquisitions have distinctive frames made for the pictures, Hendrix noted. Klimt’s “Portrait of a Young Woman” is set into a dark wood frame designed by the Wiener Werkstatte, a collective of artists and designers active in Klimt’s era. “Two Studies” is in a facsimile of the original carved and gilded frame designed by the artist. Carriera’s portrait, going on public view for the first time, remains in the English Rococo frame made for it in 18th century London.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photos: “Portrait of a Young Woman Reclining” by Gustav Klimt, “Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair” also by Klimt, and “Sir James Gray, 2nd Baronet” by Rosalba Carriera. Credit: J. Paul Getty Museum