Gustav Klimt was born on 14 July 1862 in what is now the XIV Vienna district of Baumgarten, the son of a gold engraver. In 1876 he began his studies at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts.
His artistic career was initially influenced by Hans Markart, which was particularly evident in his first commissions for theatre decorations and ceiling paintings.
Klimt soon received awards for his work
Around the turn of the century – Klimt was in the process of creating wall and ceiling decorations for the university – he developed a new, flat-ornamental, decorative style in which naturally reproduced details of the body forms were combined with abstract, colourful, precious, mosaic-like surface patterns. His clients protested decisively and a legal dispute broke out. Finally, in 1905, Klimt was allowed to keep the designs to himself for a refund of his fee.
During the same period he was active in the Vienna Secession, of which he became a founding member in 1897, and of which he was the first president. In 1902 Klimt also made the famous Beethoven Frieze for Josef Maria Olbrich’s Secession building, which can still be seen today in the basement of the building. In 1905, however, Klimt left the Secession with a group of like-minded people because of conflicts with the naturalistic wing of the artists’ association.
Klimt’s motifs are partly provocatively erotic, partly playfully ornamental. He creates impressive portraits, especially of ladies of the Viennese upper class, but also intensively condensed landscapes. As the darling of certain circles of the Viennese society of the outgoing KuK monarchy, he was able to depict the spirit of the feudal bourgeoisie with its striving for aesthetic cultivation and the desire for increased enjoyment of life in the Fin-de-Siècle like hardly anyone else.
Klimt travels a lot
- One of his most remarkable works is not to be found in Austria, but in Brussels: he creates the decoration of the dining room in Josef Hoffmann’s Palais Stoclet, a Gesamtkunstwerk of Viennese Art Nouveau.
- The artist’s international recognition through numerous exhibitions finally moved conservative spirits to honour him.
- Although Klimts professorship was repeatedly rejected, he became an honorary member of the academies in Vienna and Munich in 1917.
- On February 6, 1918, Gustav Klimt died after a stroke in his hometown of Vienna.