Hope I, 1903
oil on canvas
189.2 x 67 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 16579)
Gustav Klimt was a leading figure in the Vienna Secession. He is regarded as one of the greatest decorative painters of his time. His bold portrayal of pregnancy contravened standards of propriety in turn-of-the-century Vienna, forcing the withdrawal of the painting from his first Secession retrospective. In this richly symbolic painting, Klimt juxtaposes the promise of new life with the destructive forces of death. Despite the monstrosities around her, the pregnant woman remains calm and unperturbed, confident of the renewal within her. In preliminary sketches for this painting the tone is more positive: the sketches show a couple within a landscape reflecting upon their happiness. Klimt's decision to change the composition may have stemmed from his reaction to the death of his second son during infancy in 1902.