One of the most creative, experimental, and controversial artists of the era, Gustav Klimt is famous for the decorative murals he painted on public buildings in Vienna. His work was dominated by the themes of sexuality, love, and death.
Gustav Klimt was born in a modest suburb of Austria to Anna Klimt and Ernst Klimt, who was an engraver. Klimt attended Bürgerschule, where he was noted for his exceptional drawing skills. In 1876, at the age of fourteen, he was admitted into Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts), where he began his art career. His brother was admitted two years later. He worked with his brother and Franz von Matsch on many public building murals and decorations. His work was academic in nature with a mixture of historical styles. From 1905 until his death in 1918, he concentrated on painting portraits of Vienna’s society women as well as landscapes.
Gustav Klimt produced spectacular murals for the Burgtheater and Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1894, he was commissioned by Vienna University to paint three murals that would represent the disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and jurisprudence. However, over the time that he worked on the paintings, his style changed dramatically, and three years later, he founded the Secession movement as a challenge to the Künstlerhaus’ conservative and traditional style. He embraced the symbolism of dreams, ideas, and mindsets, which had become popular. In 1905, Klimt retrieved the murals and returned payment for his work after the nudity depicted in his work created a scandal. From then on, he never accepted other public commissioned work again. Klimt’s greatest work was The Beethoven Frieze, a masterpiece that was displayed at the fourteenth annual Secession exhibition in 1902. It was an allegorical frieze that paid homage to Beethoven and portrayed the search for happiness. He was also highly regarded for the Palais Stocklet decorations he painted in Brussels from 1904 to 1911. In 1907 and 1908, the well-known The Kisspainting was created on Lake Attersee in Austria, where he spent his summers. This painting expressed how lovers lose themselves in sexual attraction.
- Gustav Klimt had six siblings. He was second in birth order.
- Klimt remained single throughout his life and never married.