Erika Giovanna Klien
- Erika Giovanna Klien
- Lokomotive (Locomotive)
- signed Klien and dated 1926 (lower right)
- oil and tempera on canvas
Thence by descent to the present owner
Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst, Erika Giovanna Klien, 1987, no. 121, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Vienna, Hochschule für angewandte Kunst, Wille zur Form: Ungegenständliche Kunst 1910-1938 in Österreich, Polen, Tschechoslowakei und Ungarn, 1993, illustrated in the catalogue
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere & Evanston, Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Emigrants and Exiles: A Lost Generation of Austrian Artists in America, 1920-1950, 1996, illustrated in the catalogue
Munich, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Erika Giovanna Klien, 1999-2000, no. 6, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Vienna, Wien Museum, Kinetismus, Wien entdeckt die Avantgarde, 2006, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Wien- Paris, 2007-08, illustrated in the catalogue
Vienna, Wien Museum, Kampf um die Stadt, 2009, illustrated in the catalogue
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Dynamik! Kubismus, Futurismus, Kinetismus, 2011, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Wien-Berlin. Kunst zweier Metropolen, 2014, no. 226, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
This radical perspective, combined with Cizek’s experimental methods of teaching, had a remarkable influence on Klien. She embraced his synthesis of styles, developing her own distinctive aesthetic and becoming a key figure in the Viennese avant-garde. As though to illustrate the significance of her contribution to the movement, she was chosen by Cizek to represent Austrian Modernism at the seminal International Exhibition of Modern Art put together by Katherine Dreier for the Société Anonyme at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1926. Lokomotive was one of four works Klien sent to New York, and although it was not hung due to a lack of space, it was illustrated in the catalogue to highlight her contribution to contemporary art. Klien also became one of the principal proponents of Cizek’s methods, training as a teacher under him before taking up a post at the Eizabeth Duncan School in Klessheim in Austria in 1926. She emigrated to the United States in 1929 and settled in New York where she taught at numerous art institutions as well as continuing her work as an artist.
Painted in 1926, Lokomotive is an important example of Klien’s mature style and among her most significant contributions to the canon of Kineticist work. A modernist work in both subject and style, it exemplifies her dialogue with avant-garde movements. Whilst the fragmented shapes and the restrained palette reflect Klien’s understanding of cubism, the symbolic significance of the subject – a train – is a legacy of futurism. The futurist focus on the technological and mechanical aspects of modern life as subject matter was a resonant theme for Cizek and his students, as Katherine Dreier explained in the catalogue to the 1926 exhibition: ‘Professor Cizek developed the intellectual principles of rhythmic creation. He teaches that out of the crystallisation of these living rhythms proceeded the new ornaments of our time. One of the points most emphasised in his teaching is to make his pupils conscious of the period in which they live and the forces that go towards creating it’ (K. Drier, in International Exhibition of Modern Art (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 3).
In Lokomotive Klien combines a modern subject matter with another central tenet of kineticism – movement. As Monika Platzer describes, Kineticist works take ‘the theme of movement as the central message; whether it appears as a rhythmic structuring and ornamental division of the canvas surface, as moving crystalline matter in the pictorial space or as metaphysical representations of mental states. Kineticism is about visualising the potentiality of movement (M. Platzer, in Wiener Kinetismus. Eine bewegte Moderne, Vienna, 2011, p. 31). Klien achieves this sense of movement through a repetition of elements – in this case shapes and colours – that create a sense of dynamic motion. In this she was developing the experiments with portraying speed and motion that had occupied the great Futurist artists Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini. Their depictions of phased movement (fig. 2) have the same rhythmic quality that was a distinctive characteristic of much of Klien’s work. From paintings capturing birds in flight and the movement of plants in the wind, to images of the mechanical age, the study of motion was central to Klien’s work. In 1926 this exploration seems to have taken on a distinctive character; in both Lokomotive and Abstraction (fig. 3) - another work of the same year – the motif of the wheel becomes the overriding indicator of movement. In this respect the two works might be seen as pendants to one another, both exemplifying Klien’s unique approach to portraying the modern world.