Some modern artists and the artwork they responded to


In the early 1900s, Picasso was influenced by statues from Pre-Roman Iberia (the Spanish and Portuguese peninsula), which went on display in an exhibit at the Louvre Museum.

Iberian sculptures were influenced, in turn, by the Greek and Phoenician cultures.

Photo by zaqarbal (cc)

Ngil ceremony mask

Fang culture, Gabon

19th century


Public domain image

Dan Mask

Photo by Charles Sheeler (American, 1883–1965),

Photo by peterjr1961

Picasso encounters African masks at an anthropological museum in Paris:

“A smell of mould and neglect caught me by the throat. I was so depressed that I would have chosen to leave immediately. But I forced myself to stay, to examine these masks, all these objects that people had created with a sacred, magical purpose, to serve as intermediaries between them and the unknown, hostile forces surrounding them, attempting in that way to overcome their fears by giving them colour and form. And then I understood what painting really meant. It’s not an aesthetic process; it’s a form of magic that interposes itself between us and the hostile universe, a means of seizing power by imposing a form on our terrors as well as on our desires. The day I understood that, I had found my path.”-Picasso, quoted in an article in the Guardian


Picasso’s Las Meninas Series

Paul Cezanne

Bibemus Quarry

c. 1895

Oil on canvas, 65.1 x 81 cm

Museum Folkwang, Essen

Maisons sur la colline (Horta de Ebro) 1909

Oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm

Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Picasso paints Manet

Dejeuner sure L’herbe


In 1903, Klimt visited Ravenna, where he had the opportunity to see lavish Byzantine mosaics from the reign of Justinian (5th-6th century CE).

Peacock Mosaic
Church of St. Vitale, Ravenna

Gustav Klimt
Tree of Life
Marble, gold, ceramic, enamel, semiprecious stones
Dimensions of entire Stoclet Frieze: 6′ x 50′
Palais Stoclet, Brussels, Belgium

Entering the dining room, dominated by Klimt’s frieze – which depicts the tree of life, an exotic dancer and a pair of entwined lovers – Aude [Stoclet] explains that the work truly comes to life only at night, when it glows in the lamplight and candlelight, to magical effect. To create the frieze, Klimt made 15 full-scale cartoons before transferring them on to white marble plaques. Viennese craftsmen then inlaid the marble with the mosaics according to Klimt’s design before shipping the work to Palais Stoclet, where the artist himself supervised the installation while staying as a family guest.”–Louise Baring, Glimpse into Klimt’s hidden dream world,

Mosaic of women from the court of Justinian and Theodora
Church of San Vitale, Ravenna

Photo by Nick in Exsilio (cc-at-nc-sa)

Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907
Gold and Oil on Canvas, 138 cm × 138 cm
Neue Gallery, New York

Floor Mosaic
Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, 5th-6th century CE

Photo by clickykbd

Klimt spent a lot of time looking at Japanese painting books. He was particularly influenced by the Rimpa school of decorative painting.

Ogata Korin
White Plum Blossoms
one of a pair of 2-fold screens (along with Red Plum Blossoms)
color, gold and silver leaf on paper
each panel 156 x 172 cm.

Margaret MacDonald
The White Rose and the Red Rose, 1902
painted gesso over hessian, with glass beads
38½ in. x 39½ in. (97.8 cm. x 100.3 cm.)

This panel decorated the “Rose Boudoir,” a display of Scottish design that MacDonald and her husband, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, put together for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin, Italy.

“The roses and female forms in the panels are depicted in a lyrical and symbolist manner, conveying at once a sense of the sacred and the profane. Here are subtle evocations of maternal and sensual love, imagery vibrant in its contrasts of innocence and of sexual awakening. In handling such themes Margaret aligned herself with the sensibilities of European high Symbolist art and literature, whilst in her treatment still retaining a strong connection to the Glasgow avant-garde.”–Christies Lot 21 Sale 7578

Margaret MacDonald
Embroidered Panel, 1902
linen with silk appliqué and bead decoration, 177cm x 41cm

Gustav Klimt
The Dancer, 1916-1918
Private Collection

Gustav Klimt
The Kiss
Oil and gold leaf on canvas
180 cm × 180 cm (70.9 in × 70.9 in)
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria

Notice the little traily things made up of triangles spilling over the woman’s leg. Don’t they remind you of the floor pattern from San Vitale, above?


We know that Klimt was intensely interested in textiles and that Vienna was full of elegant prints.

Textiles of Klimt’s Vienna

We also know that, like Klee and Matisse, Klimt collected African textiles. Below are two of the best-known types of African textiles–I don’t know that Klimt saw these particular types, but it’s possible.

Kente Cloth
Ghana, 20th or 21st century

Photo by okrahoma (cc-at-nc)

Prestige Panel, Cut-pile Velvet (also known as Kaasai)
Kuba People, Democratic Republic of Congo, 20th or 21st century

Photo by Woody Collins

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