The oil on canvas piece illustrates the powerful character of Lewinsky; as Klimt incorporates a darker colour scheme to evoke the dynamic presence of the actor.
Upon the completion of art school in Vienna, Klimt was hired as an artist to create a portrait of an actor for the Burgtheater. The artist was given the opportunity to pick any artist he found provoking and paint them in their role at the theatre on a mural.
The actor Josef Lewinsky who played the role of Don Carlos in the play Goethe's Clavigo for 36 years captivated Klimt by his great success. The artist was inspired by his work and the allure of the environment, painting an allegory of the theatre that encompassed the mystery at the time.
The painting of Act Josef Lewinsky As Carlos depicts the character standing upright in a powerful position. His body is tilted to the left, with arms crossed across his chest and legs spread apart. Lewinsky is dressed in his Don Carlos costume, based on the classic colours of black and white.
The costume includes a white undershirt with a tight neck that ruffles out of the middle to add texture to the piece, accompanied by a black jacket that transcends as a cloak. The outfit is paired with a fitted black pair of trousers, whose colour blends in with the background blurring the detail. Finally, at the feet of Lewinsky are black pointed boots, with a silver buckle across the shoe and a small heel.
The clothing of the actor is a significant aspect to analyse in the piece as it illustrates the character of Don Carlos within the play, and gives the viewer a glimpse as to which elements of his role captivated the painter. The style of the clothing remains elegant and plain, accentuating the character of the actor rather than covering him with layer of clothing to add interest. The ruffles at the front of the shirt, paired with white ruffles coming out of the sleeves of the jackets adds a pop of colour to the black ensemble, while still incorporating the classic look.
The background of the painting remains in the similar colour palette by incorporating dark colours. Shades of black and dark grey blend together into the silhouette of the muse, creating a dark tension in the piece. The face of the actor remains in a fierce position, with the mouth angled downwards. The painting manifests the self-conscious actor posing, while illuminating his character as Don Carlos through his facial expression, costume, and body language.