Book Review: Paul H. Simpson's Flöge and Klimt – A Family Affair

On 13 September, writer Paul Simpson presents new research on the companion and fashionable muse of artist Gustav Klimt

Top Stories | Dardis McNamee | September 2012

Emilie Flöge in a portrait by Gustav Klimt, wearing clothes of her own design (Photo: Wien Museum)

Who Was Emilie Flöge?

So much has been written and said in this 150th anniversary year of Gustav Klimt’s birth that another book could easily test the endurance of even the most ardent Klimt follower. Still, an important part of the story has long remained untold: that of Emilie Flöge, the woman who is generally understood to be Klimt’s muse. In Flöge and Klimt – A Family Affair, to be published in 2013, writer Paul Simpson is attempting to fill this gap.

In a lecture at the Wien Museum on 13 September, Simpson will be presenting previously unpublished information about Emilie Flöge, summarising 10 years of research. Triggered by the exhibition Klimt und die Frauen at Galerie Belvedere in 2000, Simpson began with the Flöge sisters’ fashion atelier in the Casa Piccola at Mariahilfer Strasse 1b, in Vienna’s 6th District.

Until recently there was only one definitive book about Emilie Flöge, Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge – An Artist and His Muse, by W.G. Fischer, which has been the main source of information about the Klimt/Flöge relationship, a friendship and professional collaboration that lasted until his death in 1918. "It is as though she had died with him," Simpson says.

But in fact, Flöge lived for another 34 years, and took many of their and other secrets to her grave. Or did she? Simpson wondered.

"Emilie Flöge was a secretive woman", he says, "who left little or no trace of her relationships." Still, she was the custodian of many of Gustav Klimt’s effects, which she carefully guarded until her death at the age of 77, in 1952.

He points to the correspondence: "It is all from Klimt to Flöge. And there is a lot of it, approximately 600 items. But there is only one so called love letter and that does not project the care and affection contained in Klimt’s many letters to one of the mothers of his illegitimate children."

Flöge is thought to have burned many items of correspondence and other items were destroyed in a fire in her Vienna apartment near the end of the war in 1945.

"But from a practical point of view, either the fire was not that bad or many things were not there," Simpson points out. The same applies to other items from her estate, including the 369 objects from her textile collection now at the Österreichisches Museum für Volkskunde on Laudongasse in the 8th District.

The September lecture will also detail the discovery of Flöge’s derelict grave, and there will be interviews with art historians Alice Strobl, Wolfgang Fischer and Alessandra Comini – and with the oldest surviving legitimate relative of the Flöge/Klimt Family.

Flöge and Klimt – A Family Affair

by Paul H. Simpson

To be published early 2013

pp. TBA    


Lecture and Book Presentation of Flöge and Klimt – A Family Affair

13 Sept., 18:30

Wien Museum

4., Karlsplatz 8

(01) 505 87 47


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