Gustav Klimt. Hope, II. 1907-08

Gustav Klimt

Hope, II

1907-08

Medium
Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas
Dimensions
43 1/2 x 43 1/2" (110.5 x 110.5 cm)
Credit
Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder and Helen Acheson Funds, and Serge Sabarsky
Object number
468.1978
Department
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
Gustav Klimt has 11 works online.
There are 2,370 paintings online.

Although images of women and children are frequent in the history of art, depictions of pregnancy are rare. In Hope, II a woman with a skull nestled into her gown lowers her head toward her swelling belly. Below, three women also bow their heads—in prayer or possibly mourning. The ornate decoration in Hope, II nearly overwhelms its surface. Klimt was committed to craftwork, and was among the many artists of his time who combined archaic traditions—here Byzantine gold leaf painting—with a modern psychological subject. Klimt lived and worked in turn-of-the-century Vienna, home to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; Klimt's exploration of formative drives like sex and death parallel Freud's explorations of the psyche.

Gallery label from 2009

A pregnant woman bows her head and closes her eyes, as if praying for the safety of her child. Peeping out from behind her stomach is a death's head, sign of the danger she faces. At her feet, three women with bowed heads raise their hands, presumably also in prayer—although their solemnity might also imply mourning, as if they foresaw the child's fate.

Why, then, the painting's title? Although Klimt himself called this work Vision, he had called an earlier, related painting of a pregnant woman Hope. By association with the earlier work, this one has become known as Hope, II. There is, however, a richness here to balance the women's gravity.

Klimt was among the many artists of his time who were inspired by sources not only within Europe but far beyond it. He lived in Vienna, a crossroads of East and West, and he drew on such sources as Byzantine art, Mycenean metalwork, Persian rugs and miniatures, the mosaics of the Ravenna churches, and Japanese screens. In this painting the woman's gold-patterned robe—drawn flat, as clothes are in Russian icons, although her skin is rounded and dimensional—has an extraordinary decorative beauty. Here, birth, death, and the sensuality of the living exist side by side suspended in equilibrium.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 54

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Vienna. Until 1914
Eugenia Primavesi. Acquired by December 1914
Neue Galerie (Dr. Otto Kallir), Vienna. [Either sold by Dr. Kallir in 1937, or thereafter by Ms. Vita Künstler, to whom he transferred ownership of the Neue Galerie in 1938]
Private Collection. By 1964
Private Collection, Vienna. By 1969 / by 1975
Dr. Hans Barnas, Vienna. By 1977
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired from Mr. Barnas, through Galerie Beyeler, Basel, June 13, 1978

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please email provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA's collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

If you would like to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA, please contact Scala Archives (all geographic locations) at firenze@scalarchives.com.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA's archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.