20/4/ - 31/12/ 2021 The Sugar Palace, Krešimirova 28, Rijeka
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The exhibition of one of the most attractive modern painters, a favourite with both the audience of his time and that of today, reveals him at the City Museum of Rijeka in a dual role we rarely have the opportunity to see him play. As a young painter he is a partaker of a waning epoch, as a mature artist he is the originator of a dramatic turn in art, in which he is one of the most important creators. Large representative canvases by young Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst and colleague Franz Matsch from the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka have not been widely known so far. Although Klimt created them some twenty years later, his erotic drawings surprisingly complement his early compositions of classical beauty, allegories of music, drama, opera, poetry and dance. Delicate pencil drawings of smaller size which shocked the people of that time, are still making a strong impression today and inducing passion and eroticism. No matter how diverse the female nature and its manifestation were, it was always the main obsession of both the young and the mature Klimt, it was the genuine originator of the world and all creativity – initially of harmony, tranquility and sublime sensibility and later of surging passion and pure carnality. Ecstasy is eventually levelled with eroticism, while emotions are entwined with sensuality.
Teatro Comunale (today's Croatian National Theatre Ivan Zajc in Rijeka) was built in 1885. Around the same time Gustav Klimt's canvases were brought here, along with works by Ernst Klimt and Franz Matsch (members of Künstler-Compagnie). Gustav Klimt's works were meant to embellish the impressive dome of Rijeka's theatre while Vienna had just started to recognize his talent outside the School of Applied Arts which he attended for seven years.
His talent was far beyond artisan’s skill and became a worldwide phenomenon. For the past couple of years, we have been witnessing that some of his most known works made during the secession phase have been sold at high prices and sold at prestigious auctions. Exhibitions are being hosted all around the world in his honour. Each object with Klimt's name or image becomes a well-selling souvenir.
Klimt's exhibition in 1904 presented the so called Faculty Paintings. At that time, art historian Iso Kršnjavi predicted that Klimt is going to be the “artist that the public will never love nor respect”. Not only was he mistaken, but numerous publications, exhibition catalogues, and books that have been published in Klimt's honour prove him wrong. Some of these were popular and accessible to wider audience and some were scientific articles written by prominent art historians. Yet, the highlight has almost always been the “modern” Klimt!
Apart from few art historians, the general public doesn’t seem to know much about his works which have been in Rijeka for more than 130 years. Although several scientific articles were written by prominent art historians, only until the exhibition is displayed where a visitor can see the works up-close and compare it to Klimt’s later works, will one know and recognise Klimt’s talent as such. These works present his art skills that were necessary for the turnover which will happen much later and which ultimately became the reason why he is so important today.

Catalogue promotion and expert panel

At the Sugar Palace on October 26th, the catalogue of the exhibition The Unknown Klimt – love, death, ecstasy was presented, which brings the audience closer to the early works of one of the most celebrated artists of all time – Gustav Klimt, and to the paintings that after 133 years were dismantled from the ceiling and proscenium of Rijeka's Croatian National Theater Ivan pl. Zajc, and restored. See more

Exhibition opening

In the presence of mayor Vojko Obersnel, director of Rijeka 2020 d.o.o. Irena Kregar Šegota, Ambassador of the Republic of Austria Josef Markus Wuketich, Museum Director Ervin Dubrović and the author of the exhibition Deborah Pustišek Antić along with the media representatives the exhibition was opened on April 20, 2021 in accordance with very strict epidemiological measures. Unfortunately, this made it impossible for a large number of interested citizens to participate in the festive ambiance, who would certainly be happy to attend such an important cultural event which, in the days that followed, proved to be a very accurate assumption. See more

The collection

Paintings by Gustav and Ernst Klimt and Franz Matsch, as befits their original location, are on display as part of the exhibition dominated by theatricality and sensuality of characters, continuity of form, diaphanousness and softness of material and dim lights, but with an emphasis on the nine imposing temperas on canvas that arrived in Rijeka in 1885 from Vienna thanks to the architectural firm Fellner & Helmer as well as the mayor of Rijeka Giovanni Ciotta who hired them. See more

Summer at the Museum of the City of Rijeka - educational and creative workshops for children


From the 20th to the 23th July 2021 educational and creative workshops were held at the Sugar Refinery Palace at the permanent display of the Museum and the exhibition The unknown Klimt – love, death, ecstasy. The workshops were intended for children from 7 to 11 years of age. Within a week we visited the entire permanent display of the Museum and the exhibition The unknown Klimt. We got acquainted with the notion of the kampanul, tried out the sugar cone cutter, learned about all the forms sugar had been available in the past and what was going on in the Sugar Refinery Palace before. Following the interactive tour of the Klimt exhibition, we were introduced to the artist Gustav Klimt and the works that embellish the ceiling of the Rijeka theatre. We viewed the paintings closely and noticed details, wondered about the motifs, the colours and the paintings' titles and were looking for the signatures. On top of all that we enjoyed going through questionnaires, colouring books and puzzles on touch screens, as well as the interactive projections of the Drawings and the Angel.


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Unknown Klimt Workshop


During 2018 and 2019, the Museum hosted animated film workshops in collaboration with the Association of film enthusiasts AnimatoRi and the Centre of Technical Culture Rijeka. Dozens of participants tried to make an animated film on the subject of Rijeka's theatre paintings. This year’s plan is to continue the collaboration, but also to start a new, different educational and creative workshop which also has a goal to introduce children and young people to the beginnings of the opus of painter Gustav Klimt and to his paintings in Rijeka that are unknown to the domestic and especially foreign audiences. Workshops are going to include making bracelets from wooden spatulas with selected motifs from the exhibition, decorating coasters and boxes using decoupage technique, the artistic experience of the exhibited paintings, and decorating canvas bags with fabric colours. The programs are adapted to all age groups and for each workshop a tour of the exhibition is included with interactive expert guidance.
Prior notice is required for all educational programs. Applications for the workshops are starting in mid-April 2021 at: josipa.verbanac@muzej-rijeka.hr

Have fun with art!

Unknown Klimt - from restoration to exhibition

Two years have passed since the paintings by the brothers Klimt and F. Matsch had been dismounted at the Croatian National Theatre to be exhibited at the City Museum of Rijeka. Since that time the paintings have been restored and prepared for the exhibition so that the audience could see and experience them better for the very first time.