Gustav Klimt: Portrait of Sonja Knips, 1898
Klimt’s portrait of the aristocratic Sonja Knips made him the most sought-after portraitist of bourgeois Vienna. It’s a lovely painting, very flattering, but when you compare it to Klimt’s later portraits of women, it is very tame, stuffy almost. This is partly because Viennese fashions would change drastically in the following years, going from more rigid, corseted dresses to looser, unstructured gowns and capes. But also, as Klimt became more and more comfortable with his painting, and as his rich clientele became more liberal, he began to take more liberties with his portraits, depicting his women not as they looked in real life, but as goddesses and femme fatales and fantastical beings, and giving them imaginative garments that would suit these roles — and their personalities — more than any real-life outfit could.