Hope II is a beautiful example of Klimt's use of gold leaf in a paintings and his rich ornamental style. Look at the way he's painted the garment worn by the main figure, how it's an abstracted shape decorated with circles yet we still 'read' it as a cloak or dress. How at the bottom it melds into the three other faces. In his illustrated biography of Klimt, art critic Frank Whitford says Klimt "applied real gold and silver leaf in order to heighten still further the impression that the painting is a precious object, not remotely a mirror in which nature can be glimpsed but a carefully wrought artefact." 2 It's a symbolism that's still valid today given that gold is still regarded as a valuable commodity.
The second painting entitled "Hope II" was first shown to the public in 1909 in the Klimt room of the second Kunstschau. The first painting--which had been withdrawn from the retrospective Secessionist's exhibition for obscenity six years earlier--was also on show there. At the time, Klimt had the following to say about the painting. "Everything is ugly, she is and what she sees, yet inside her grows beauty, hope. And her eyes express that." The title refers to the German expression 'in guter hoffnung' (in good hope), which refers to a woman being pregnant. In both paintings death plays a role - literally being in the background - which is hardly surprising if you take Klimt's painful recent experience into account. The second son he had with his model Marie Zimmerman died at just four months old.
Gustav Klimt - Die Hoffnung II (Hope II) 1907-08 (oil and gold paint on canvas) A pregnant woman bows her head and closes her eyes, as if praying for the safety of her child. Peeping out from behind her stomach is a death's head, sign of the danger she faces. At her feet, three women with bowed heads raise their hands, presumably also in prayeralthough their solemnity might also imply mourning, as if they foresaw the child's fate. A work of beauty and majesty, the ebullience of Klimt’s colors and patterns are subtly countered by the macabre peeping skull that emerges from behind the pregnant lady’s belly. The grouping of all the figures and detail into one column in the picture’s center suggests a unity and balance among birth, death, prayer, mourning, vibrancy, and disease.
Klimt was among the many artists of his time who were inspired by sources not only within Europe but far beyond it. He lived in Vienna, a crossroads of East and West, and he drew on such sources as Byzantine art, Mycenean metalwork, Persian rugs and miniatures, the mosaics of the Ravenna churches, and Japanese screens. In this painting the woman's gold-patterned robedrawn flat, as clothes are in Russian icons, although her skin is rounded and dimensionalhas an extraordinary decorative beauty. Here, birth, death, and the sensuality of the living exist side by side suspended in equilibrium.
Although images of women and children are frequent in the history of art, depictions of pregnancy are rare. In Hope, II a woman with a skull nestled into her gown lowers her head toward her swelling belly. Below, three women also bow their heads—in prayer or possibly mourning. The ornate decoration in Hope, II nearly overwhelms its surface. Klimt was committed to craftwork, and was among the many artists of his time who combined archaic traditions—here Byzantine gold leaf painting—with a modern psychological subject. Klimt lived and worked in turn-of-the-century Vienna, home to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; Klimt's exploration of formative drives like sex and death parallel Freud's explorations of the psyche.
"Hope II" was Klimt's second exploration of the pregnancy theme (pregnant woman had appeared as subordinate images in several of his earlier allegories), and was in many ways less overtly provocative than "Hope I." The woman's abdomen was no lnoger bared, and the ghoulish spectess that featured prominently in the earlier painting is here discretely hidden in the decorative folds of her gown. "Hope II" has weathered the full brunt of Klimt's mosaic phase and began to point, albeit tentatively, toward a different future. Many aspects of the composition were by now familiar: Once again a central pillar of bodies cut through a square canvas, and the surrounding space, however luminous in its ornamental veneer, was a negative as well as a positive area, a void as well as a presence. Pregnancy (alluded to by such recurrent titles as "Hope" or "Expectation") was the ideal condition for the Klimtian woman, a state of physical as well as psychological waiting, of utmost passivity. In his slightly later "Stoclet Frieze," the artist would pair "Expectation" with its natural complement, "Fulfillment," and it is possible that a similar relationship was intended between "Hope II" and "The Kiss."