Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt
Born July 14, 1862
Baumgarten, Austrian Empire
Died Feb. 6, 1918 (at age 55)
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Nationality Imperial Austrian
Education Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule)
Movement Symbolism, Art Nouveau
Field Painting
Famous Paintings by Gustav Klimt
The Kiss
Adele Bloch-Bauer I
The Three Ages of Woman
Adele Bloch-Bauer II
Beethoven Frieze

Gustav Klimt was the second out of seven children. He was born July 14, 1862, in Baumgarten near Vienna. His dad was a gold engraver who thought that his sons should be artists. Gustav and his two brothers were trained in all aspects of art, and from the beginning they all showed promising talent. It was hard for them to train their artistic abilities though, for the Klimt family were poor and couldn’t really afford such luxuries.

In 1876, Gustav won a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, where his brother Ernst would end up attending as well. Klimt’s favorite artist was a local named Han Makart, who was a historical painter, and especially studied all his works. He left the school in 1883.

Gustav hooked up with his friend and his brother Ernst to try to start getting jobs, and after a few years, their work started to be noticed by the artistic community. They broke up the trio, and went their separate ways when their careers began. Gustav received his first professional job when he was asked to paint Ringstraße.

In 1888, Klimt was awarded the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. He became an honorary member of University of Munich and the University of Vienna, even though he had never attended the schools. All these endowments were given to him because of his art projects in and around Vienna. Klimt was one of those rare artists that were actually famous while they were alive, instead of posthumously.

Four years later, his dad and brother Ernst died, and Gustav had to take over his family. They did alright, considering Gustav was just an artist, but a well-known one nonetheless. Sometime after their deaths, Klimt met Emilie Flöge, and they began to see each other at every chance they could get. Unfortunately, they never married, but they remained companions throughout their entire lives.

In 1894, the University of Vienna commissioned Klimt to paint three paintings to hang in the dome. When finished, they were taken down because the university deemed them as too sexual. This was his last public commission, for the community thought all his works were too erotic, and refused to pay for them or be associated with them. During 1945, these three paintings were destroyed by Schutzstaffel (SS) officers, and there isn’t a record of what was depicted in them, so they are lost forever.

When the Vienna Succession came about in 1897, Gustav joined it. The Vienna Succession was a group for artists that were rejected from other art cliques, or did not wish to be associated or classified with a certain style. They had a monthly paper that Gustav participated on and helped circulate.

Around 1902, Vienna was holding a tribute to Beethoven, who was from Austria. For the show, Gustav painted the Beethoven Frieze, which depicts Beethoven and other things associated with him. It is mainly gold, marking the beginning of Klimt’s gold obsession. He became inspired by the Byzantine frescoes which were mainly gold, and most of his work from that point on reflects the frescoes’ influence. For instance, in 1904, Gustav was hired to decorate a dining room of a wealthy aristocrat. At the time, it was considered the “grandest room of Art Nouveau.” The walls were gold leaf, and the other extreme details gave it its nickname.

Three years later, Klimt painted his most famous piece, The Kiss. The entire painting is gold, except for the faces of the people, and some details on their clothing and in the background. The man in the painting is clutching the girl, as if to never let her go, and is giving her a kiss as if it’s the last kiss he’ll ever give her. The emotional charge of this painting is incredible, for when anyone looks at it, it feels like they are in the painting, either giving the kiss or receiving it.

Unlike other artists, Klimt never painted a self-portrait. When asked why, he said, “I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women.” Most Gustav’s art is of women, for he loved them so. He had numerous affairs during his lifetime, even though his companion was Emilie. He had a total of 14 kids, and not all from the same women. Fortunately for him though, this never came out during his lifetime, and he was able to avoid public scandals.

In 1911, he received first prize in the World exhibition in Rome. A few years later, on February 6, 1918, Klimt died. He is interred at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. Today, Klimt’s art is some of the most sought after pieces ever. His painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I sold for $135 million, which is one of the most expensive paintings ever sold. Adele was a model during Klimt’s time, and she is the only woman he ever painted twice.

One response to “Gustav Klimt”

  1. Sidney Hooper says:

    As is the norm the good things that we do are not very often recognised during our lives.

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