Gustav Klimt Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
1907; Oil, silver, and gold on canvas;138 cm × 138 cm (54 in × 54 in) ; Neue Galerie, New York
The Painting: WikiP |

UnityDescribe the forms that contribute to the unity of this composition.

(look for elements and traits that repeatedly appear)

(look for alignments, structures or groupings that organize parts into larger entities (gestalt))


  • Dominating golden yellow throughout the composition.


  • Dominant visual element is pattern which is used throughout virtually all of the composition... though the focal area reverts to smooth, clean, representational modeling, and in some areas, pattern fades into prominent textures.


  • Several prominent shapes are repeated throughout


  • Only a single major focal area dominates, and thus unifies, the work.


  • The composition is organized left and right of the single vertical axis of the figure. The broad left side's distinctive traits balance those opposing traits on the right.

Consistent distribution of contrasts

  • There is, throughout, a prevailing pattern of active contrasts -- a sort of generally consistent visual busyness. As noted elsewhere, contrasts also progress from rather subdued, to moderately bold -- nevertheless, the general contrast condition is constent.

Progressions of pattern as shapes gradually evolve, and degree of contrast evolves.

  • Progressions serve to both unify and connect regions of a composition, as well as introducing dynamic movement through the changing forms.

    Progressions offer a continuity through regions of a composition -- a sort of bridge connecting one area with another, relating forms in one area to differing forms elsewhere.

Impact Concept — How does this image aim to grab the viewer's attention?


VarietyDescribe the forms that contribute to the variety and dynamism of this painting.

(look for contrast of any and every kind. Look especially for similar forms that are varied in some way. Look for anomalies — patterns or norms that are broken.)

Pattern variations

  • Klimt is a master of pattern. In this painting he composes many regions of distinct patterns...some very regular and geometric, some with organic, eye-like shapes, others of spirals, circles and flowing lines.

    All areas use pattern motifs of roughly the same small size. A few areas use very small elements -- almost dot-like.

    The far left and far fight regions are more textural than regular patterns, but the large splotches of gold leaf skirt the boundary between pattern and texture.

    Most of the patterns are of similar contrast -- the boldness of motifs-on-field is apparent, but not overwhelming. In general, the central figure has more prominent boldness than outer areas -- so there is a subtle progression of contrast from outer to inmost patterns.

    The variety and contrast of patterns is greatest around the head and shoulders of Adele -- thus enhancing emphasis.

Shape variations

  • As noted among "patterns", the shapes within Klimt's patterns varies from very orderly geometric shapes, to organic forms, to rough texture-like features.

Color Variations

  • The image is dominated by a rich golden yellow, but is accented with very dark browns, deep midnight blue, a vivid green, red squares, and the subtle variations on flesh tones.

Pattern vs. Smooth Modeling

  • overall the image is busy with dynamic pattern. Only in/near the face are surfaces calm, simle and resolved.

    The subject herself, feels calm and secure in the midst of dynamic, busy, active context.

Abstract form vs. Representational form

  • As noted, abstract pattern dominates the picture plane, but the composition culminates in the elegant, soft organic forms of the sitter's face, shoulders and hands.

General value contrast throughout.

  • The patterns of shapes and the textures are not soft and subtle, but bold -- bold primarily do to strong contrast within the forms that make up the patterns.

Massed colors/tones in focal area.

  • The area around the head offers broad areas of largely constant color and tone.

    These simple-colored areas are juxtaposed with other simple areas of markedly different values. Such contrasts between broad shape are graphically emphatic.

Progressions of pattern as shapes gradually evolve, and degree of contrast evolves.

  • Progressions serve to both unify and connect regions of a composition, as well as introducing dynamic movement through the changing forms.

    Variations in pattern and value contrast in one area contrast with those in later stages of the progression.

Focal AreasWhat areas are focal areas?
Describe the forms that contribute to their graphic emphasis?

The face, head and hands

  • Bold areas of generally solid color/tone -- particularly prominent since these forms are the only non-pattern dominated areas in the composition.

    Human face amongst all of the otherwise abstract pattern is both significant and distinctive.

    Face looking directly back at the viewer generally draws attention as viewer works to read the character and emotion of the subject.

    Boldest value contrasts in the composition.

    Terminates the axis of the figure, and the directional flow of the edges/shape of the dress itself. These forms effectively point to, and lead our attention toward the head.

    The two forearms also flow, with directional force, towards the face.

The figure

  • The dress and figure are handled with more boldly defined pattern/contrasts than the surrounding background.

    The figure's bounding edges are well-defined, as patterns change character abruptly.

Green accent area/pattern in lower left

  • the horizontal band of bold, contrasting rectangles stands out against the flowing movement elsewhere and the playful pattern elsewhere.

    the distinctive block of green in the lower left draws attention as the only area of rich green, and one of the few areas with little or no pattern.

    The horizontal strip contrasts with the more prominent general vertical movement.

    The row of rectangles is the most fully, geometrically structured arrangment among the otherwise playful and flowing patterns.

    Compositionally, this area along the edge acts as a lead-in to the composition as a whole, leading toward the long, graceful curve that flows up-and-right from the lower left, toward the torso.

Relief Areas

Though the entire composition is active with contrasting textures and patterns, the outer areas -- far left and right -- have subdued contrasts and less prominent patterns, providing relief relative to the most dynamic areas. There are no absolutely calm areas in the composition, unless the simple surfaces of the face and hair are considered such.

Gustav Klimt: Wikipedia | Artchive | Artcyclopedia | ArtNet |