Being an artist’s muse is an iconic role played by many women throughout history. There is no art without a beautiful person to inspire the creativity brewing in the mind of men. We hear how important these women are to these “great men,” but we seldom hear about who they are. Where would the Pre-Raphaelites be without Elizabeth Siddel, or Picasso without Dora Maar? Yet, I doubt the general public is able to note anything about these women but their names.
Such is the case with Emilie Louise Flöge. One would not be faulted for drawing a blank at the mention of Ms. Flöge. If nothing comes to mind upon hearing that name there is another that may ring a few more bells: Gustav Klimt. Klimt is one of the most renowned painters of the Art Nouveau movement, but there’s a chance you already know that. If not, I can almost guarantee you’ve seen his work.
Emile was a good friend and a theorized lover of Gustav Klimpt. She modeled for him, and became the subject of multiple pieces, but she was so much more than a model. Emile herself was an artist.
Emilie was born in Vienna in 1874, into a large and quite contemporary family. Unlike many women of the time, she was encouraged to be creative and explore art; this is how she started her friendship with Klimt in the first place. Emilie started designing clothing with her sister and in 1908 opened a fashion house.
This fashion house was innovative in many ways, and was more similar to a clothing store today than a fashion house of her time. The shop was decorated with pieces of art that were created for the store and not to be sold along with the clothes. This created an environment for shoppers vastly different from the average drab studio.
This creativity unsurprisingly followed her into her designs. Instead of following the fashionable silhouettes, Emile created innovative dresses with empire waistlines and large sleeves. She modernized fashion during a time when women were not respected in the fashion industry.
Her clothes are almost definitely under the umbrella of art, and yet most people do not know her name outside the context of Edward Klimt’s art. Tragically, this is the case with most women from history: defined by their relationships to men rather than being allowed to be recognized for their own achievements.
Women might have been left out of the history books but they were always there, so we should honor them by giving them at least a little bit of the recognition they’ve undoubtedly earned.
Art Credit: Edward Klimt