March April May 2013
48" x 36"
mixed media: images, copper caps, pennies, images, fabric, and paint on a wooden pallet
My humorous [fictitious!] take on and break from the sometimes stuffy and so, so serious art world. In my art world, Austrian painter Gustav Klimt was raised by a woman from Haiti, named Angelique Baronne du Bouche. This is her story.
Artist’s Note Board: 46.5 “ h x 12” w
(The humorous, fictitious ‘story’ below is engraved on a board, both sides. )
Not much is known about the woman who raised the famous Austrian Symbolist painter, Gustav Klimt. Time and art dealers’ collective selected memoirs and purchases have almost wiped her off the face of the art world map. But an astounding July 2007 discovery in a Union City NJ warehouse has made it crystal clear: Gustav Klimt soaked up more than his nanny’s milk.
Born in 1840 to a fisherman father and prostitute mother, Angelique Baronne du Bouche, like Klimt, was the second of seven children. In the nineteenth century hardscrabble existence of Les Cayes, Haiti, a very young Angelique vowed to talk, work, or fight her way out of poverty and a life condemned to dull domestic bliss.
At seven years old, she was handed over to the crew of HMS Indomitable and spent 11 years in laundry and culinary service to the ship’s captain.
In 1858 an unfortunate run-in with The Indomitable’s first mate landed her ashore. She got dumped in Zeebrugge, Belgium.
Fate played its hand and gave her a positive life-changing event. In a seaman’s bar, around a candle-lit table, she met and fell in love with Capt. Adolphus Klimt. He was on shore leave, she needed a free meal, and then they had a fling. Three days later he took her to Vienna and his home, where she was introduced as cuisinnaire titulaire, and installed as the Klimt Family cook. Her duties quickly expanded: she became nurse, wet nurse, teacher, and companion to the Klimt children.
From Day One, the eldest son and second in line, Gustav, was her favorite of the Klimt brood. Because she especially loved art, Little Gustav’s love of colors drew her attention immediately. She introduced him to the importance of the glittering and lively pop of gold and its many tints and hues.
They became constant companions and babbled endlessly about the importance of art in one’s life. She was a natural painter, and weekly took the young boy along to her pleine air classes. Turns out he, too, was a natural painter.
Quality clothing and the importance of beauty and high culture were their favorite shared interests.
She sewed her own wardrobe and had a natural talent for combining interesting textures with cutting edge styles. She was known openly as a raucous, iconoclastic loose cannon seamstress, but in private salons across Vienna, her taste was adored and unashamedly, brazenly appropriated.
And she loved the female figure. Later outted as the first and most articulate and talented European nubian lesbian, Angelique du Bouche advocated , 24/7, for the rights of women, and particularly the right of women to marry women, have access to sperm banks, and raise children of their own, ‘sans homme du mansion. ‘
Her influence on Gustav is questionable only to the blind. Years later, he would kiss Angelique and the family home goodbye, attend and graduate Vienna School of Arts & Crafts, and go on to paint paintings that would, centuries later, sell for upwards of 100 million dollars. If one scratches below the powder and rouge surface of Klimt’s million dollar model, Adele Bloch-Bauer, one just might spot a large, dark glistening dynamo of a figure -- the golden girl of 19th century Vienna, Angelique Baronne du Bouche, a.k.a., Cousin Klimt.