Last week, I compared this painting to Manet’s because it is the inverse of his famous ‘Dejeuner sur l’Herbe’ – here, the nude is male while the female is fully dressed.
I’m not sure if that’s ever been done before, but I liked the idea of it. The painting is called ‘The Embrace” and it was inspired by a startling photo in one of my tattoo books.
There is a lot of pattern in this picture – his full body tattoos and her dress. I don’t think I could have done that if it hadn’t been for the moment when my hero stopped being Edvard Munch and became Gustav Klimt. That was in the early Sixties.
Like most people, I thought Klimt was a decadent bourgeois – he was off my list. But Jim Gill brought him to my attention and it was right around the time American art had gotten very austere. Without Klimt, I don’t think that I would have thought of doing tattooed people. Klimt had a horror of vacuui and he had to fill in every little space. Maybe I share that a little – maybe everybody does to some degree.
Critics hate pattern. They think it’s superficial. But pattern is part of the overall geometry. Look at Matisse.
Anyway, I like Klimt so much I had to go to Vienna to see his work, since there wasn’t much here. He just blew me away and I thought if he can do that, then I can too.
That’s why I always say I’m all the painters plus me…Klimt was one of the artists who allowed me to be as brave and far out as I wanted to be.