In 1894, the Austrian Ministry of Culture and Education invited Gustav Klimt to participate in the creation of a set of monumental paintings for the ceiling of the Graduation Hall at the University of Vienna. The Ministry commissioned the artist to paint allegorized versions of three of the four faculties of the University: Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence. The commission specified that the works were to depict the “Triumph of Light over Darkness,” indicating the power of man over nature, the triumph of the human will over irrational urges. Each of Klimt’s paintings, however, seemed to represent the opposite of what the University intended, challenging the traditional liberal values of the Enlightenment and reflecting the evolving ideas of the avant-garde intellectual milieu. The philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche pervaded progressive thought in turn-of-the-century Vienna, informing Klimt’s paintings in the same way they influenced Sigmund Freud’s psychological ideas. Many scholars have since wondered why Klimt’s art underwent such an abrupt shift from a conventional academic approach towards an evocative and imprecise style and Symbolist subject matter. My thesis explores the ways in which Schopenhauerian, Nietzschean, and Freudian philosophies can elucidate Klimt’s subversion of the University’s commission.
This thesis explores Northern Renaissance painter Judith Leyster as an influential female artist of the seventeenth century. Her contributions to the art world as a citizen of the Dutch Republic are unprecedented and commendable. Two of her most prized works are The Proposition and her Self-Portrait. Both of these works are explored in this thesis to better understand Judith’s role as both a market artist and female artist in a male dominant world. The Proposition, a painting embedded with symbolism and mystery, touches upon gender roles, domesticity, and prostitution. Meanwhile, Judith’s Self-Portrait is understood to be Judith’ personal manifesto. Both paintings shed light on Judith’s character and skill. A true “Leading Star,” Judith not only became a master artist during her lifetime, but she also achieved incredible success despite her gender. Judith remains a mystery to many art historians due to her enigmatic past, but through viewing and analyzing her artwork, she is being rediscovered and reinterpreted. My hope is that Judith continues to interest art historians for years to come. She is undoubtedly a master worth remembering.
In 1958, the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) brought to completion his first large-scale garden project: the Garden of Peace, both Japanese and modernist in style, for the new UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. The commission, begun in 1955 and originally intended for his design of the new facilities’ outdoor patio space, was extended by Noguchi to include a Japanese-style garden adjacent to, but lower than, the original site. With Isamu Noguchi’s formal Western training and interest in Japanese culture, the final product is an unusual hybrid; its materials, forms, composition, and spirit are a synthesis of both Eastern and Western aesthetic values. His writings and documented interviews are plentiful and offer us a unique glimpse into the artist’s own meditations and conclusions. This thesis will draw on Isamu Noguchi’s own writings in an attempt to resolve what may appear to be mixed messages in the form of the work. The motivations of the planning group at UNESCO, the commissioning institution for Noguchi’s Paris garden, will also be considered.