Death stands at the beginning and at the end of this work’s history. The young woman, Maria ("Ria") Munk, committed suicide on December 28, 1911, after the writer Hanns Heinz Ewers called off their engagement. Klimt, the most sought-after portraitist in Vienna at the time, was commissioned to paint her posthumous portrait. He struggled with the task, and the first two portraits did not meet the family’s approval. While still working on this third portrait of Ria, Klimt himself died. A beautiful example of his famous portrayals of women, this unfinished work gives fascinating insight into the artist’s process. Note the tentative placement of painted color patches amid rapidly sketched charcoal lines, the precisely outlined ornaments waiting to be filled in, and the fully developed flower pattern that envelops the upper part of the figure.
female portraitunfinishedposthumous portraitoil on canvas