Gustav Klimt ~ Biography (1862 - 1918)

Header Painting: The Kiss (Lovers), oil and gold leaf on canvas, 1908–1909
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 180 cm × 180 cm
© The Estate of Gustav Klimt

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Gustav Klimt ~ Biography I


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Gustav Klimt lived in
poverty as a child;
today his work sells for
up to $30 million

Gustav Klimt was the principal Austrian Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) painter, and one of the founders of the Vienna Sezession (1898), although he resigned in 1903. He was essentially a decorator and, from 1883 to 1892, he shared a studio for decorative painting with his brother and another artist: they worked in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, in 1891. From c.1898, after a barren period of about six years, he was influenced by Japanese art and by contemporary English painters like Burne Jones and Alma-Tadema. A more realist style characterized his ceilings for Vienna University (1900-1903), which were very unpopular. He was perhaps most successful as a designer for the applied arts (e.g. mosaic), but he was also a great influence on Schiele and Kokoschka.

There are works in Vienna (Oesterreichische Galerie) and a portrait in London (NG).

Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)


Gustav Klimt - Biography II

The Vienna of the Belle Epoque
- of Sigmund Freud, of ...

Mahler and Schonberg - evokes the admiration of the whole world for the quality and diversityof its cultural and artistic life. And Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was without doubt its most representative and fascinating painter.

As a highly gifted pupil he decorated the walls of the Burgtheater, the staircase of the Art History Museum, the University of Vienna and the Stoclet Palace. As a revolutionary he headed the Secession of 1897, in reaction against the official academic world and bourgeois conservatism.

As the portrayer of woman, the good-living, plump, feminine, amorous woman, even the female fatale, Klimt, with his powerfully suggestive portraits of beautiful ladies of Viennese society, places the emphasis, in the same way as Freud, on the importance of sexuality as the principal aspect of life and its determining element. Cloaked in richly interwoven patterns of gold or silver, of mosaics, of the exotic, of fairy tale illustrations of fabled birds and animals, of ornamental or floral motifs, of mythical whirlwinds or kaleidoscopes of radiant colours, the aggressive nudity that features in Klimt is directed towards the secrets of the unconscious and the labyrinths of the mind. He transposed his own typical sensuality and the omnipresence of the erotic onto the cycle of the world. In doing this he was at the same time creating the true erotic prelude to modern sexuality, of which Expressionism and Surrealism would make such constant use.

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    Gustav Klimt ~ Biography II (German)

    Das Wien der Belle Epoque - die Stadt Sigmund Freuds und Otto Wagners, Mahlers und Schonbergs - wird in der ganzen Welt bewundert wegen der Qualiter und der Vielfalt seines kulturellen und kunstlerischen Lebens.

    Und Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) ist ohne Zweifel sein reprasentativster und faszinierendster Maler.

    Als hevorragend begater Schuler hat er die Wande des Burgtheaters, das Treppenhaus des Kunsthistorischen Museums, die Wiener Universitat und das Palais Stoclet ausgestattet. Als Revolutionar stand er an der Spitze der Secession von 1897, die gegen offiziellen Akademismus und den burgerlichen Konservatismus opponierte. Klimt besang die Frau, lebensfroh, uppig, weiblich, Liebe und Unheil verheibend, und stellte in seinen sehr suggestiven Portrats von schonen Damen der Wiener Gesellschaft, ebenso wie Freud die Sexualitat als bedeutsamstes Element des Lebens heraus. Unter einem Mantel von Gold und Silber, Mosaiken, Exotismen, einem marchenhaften Bestiarium von Vogeln und Tieren, Blumenmotiven und Ornamenten, von mystischen Wirbeln oder grellfarbigen Kaleidoskopen entfuhrt der Maler seine aggressiven Nacktheiten zu den Geheimnissen des Unbewubten und den Labyrinthen des Geistes und bringt uns so seine unbeirrbare Sinnlichkeit nahe und die Allgegenwart des Eros im Kreislauf der Welt. Auf diese Weise schafft er ein erotisches Praludium fur die moderne Sexualitat, von der Expressionismus und Surrealismus so beharrlich Gebrauch machen werden.

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    Gustav Klimt ~ Biography (French)

    La Vienne de la Belle Epoque - celle de Sigmund Freud et d'Otto Wagner, de Mahler et de Schonberg - suscite l'admiration du monde entier pour la qualite et la diversite de sa vie culturelle et artisque.

    Et Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) en est sans conteste le peintre le plus representatif et le plus fascinant. Eleve surdoue, il a decore les murs du Burgtheater, l'escalier du Kunsthistorisches Museum, l'Universite de Vienne, le palais Stoclet. Revolutionnaire, il a pris la tete de la Secession de 1897, destinee a reagir contre l'academisme officiel et le conservatisme bourgeois. Chantre de la femme, bien vivante, bien en chair, feminine, amoureuse, voire fatale, Klimt, de compositions puissamment suggestives en portraits de belles dames de la societe viennoise met l'accent, au meme titre que Freud, sur l'importance de la sexualite comme principal aspect de la vie et son element determinant.

    Sous couvert d'or et l'argent, de mosaiques, d'exotisme, de fableaux bestiaires d'oiseaux et d'animaux, de motifs floraux ou ornementaux, de tourbillons mystiques ou de kaleidoscopes aux coleurs ardentes, c'est vers les arcanes de l'inconscient et les labyrinthes de l'esprit que le peintre entraine ses nudites agressives, traduisant ainsi son inalienable sensualite et l'omnipresence d'Eros a travers le cycle du monde. Ce faisant, il constitue par la meme le veritable prelude erotique a la sexualite moderne dont l'Expressionnisme et le Surrealisme feront un si constant usage.

    Gustav Klimt ~ Timeline

    Born on 14 July in Baumgarten, a suburb of Vienna, second eldest of seven children of Ernst Klimt, a gold engraver and Anna Finster.

    Enters the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) in Vienna where he studies drawing and decorative painting until 1883.

    With fellow students - his brother Ernst and Franz Matsch - forms the Künstlerkompanie (Artists' Company) which will carry out numerous decorative commissions.

    On completion of Burgtheater murals, Klimt receives the "Golden Order of Merit"

    Awarded Emperor's Prize in recognition of Auditorium of the Burgtheater. Work begins on the staircase paintings of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.


    Death of his brother Ernst. As guardian of his brother's daughter, he develops a close friendship with the family of the widow, Helene Flöge, and especially her sister Emilie.

    Commissioned with Matsch to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. He is assigned Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.

    Founding member of the Secession and elected the first president.

    Paints first landscapes.

    Philosophy exhibited at the Secession where it receives strong protest, and later at the Universal Exposition in Paris, where it is awarded a gold medal.

    Another University painting, Medicine, draws further criticism. Nominated for a professorship at the Academy but rejected by the Ministry of Culture and Education.

    The Beethoven Frieze is exhibited at the Fourteenth Secession, where music, art and architecture were united to exemplify Gesamtkunstwerk (total art work).

    Journey to Italy where the mosaics at Ravenna influence his style, which evolves intohis "Golden Period". The Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese workshop), a design collective, is founded.

    Angered by the continuing criticism of the University murals, withdraws from the commission.Split occurs in the Secession membership, with Klimt's group affirming the importance of decorative arts in modern life.

    Photographs Emilie Flöge modeling his designs for ten dresses.

    Kunstschau Wien exhibition of Austrian art with a strong arts and craft theme is opened by Klimt. The Austrian government purchases The Kiss for the Moderne Galerie.

    Exhibits at the Venice Biennale.

    Wins gold medal at the International Exhibition in Rome for Three Ages of Woman.

    Travels to Brussels to see his mosaics installed in the Palais Stoclet. 28 July: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, beginning World War I.

    Named honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

    Following a stroke, Klimt dies 6 February at the age of fifty-five.


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