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BIOGRAPHY

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Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, Austria in 1862. His father was a gold engraver who was unsuccessful in business and the Klimt family lived in poverty. Gustav Klimt began attending the Vienna Public Art School at the age of 14. His precocious early talent was recognised and he received his first commissions while still studying.
 

Klimt was confident enough at the age of 21 to establish the Känstlercompanie (Company of Artists) along with his brother Ernst and fellow artist Franz Matsch. They produced work for theatres, churches and museums.

 

Klimt’s early career then was spent painting murals in Vienna’s public buildings such as the Burgtheater and the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna. These were such a success that more work followed. Klimt produced his painting “Tragedy” for one such commission. “Tragedy” signalled all the stylistic characteristics he became famous for, the gold paint, the symbolism, the detail, the abstract space and of course the female form.

 

Left ‘Judith’ 1901

 

Klimt was seen as a controversial figure in his lifetime. His work was often considered too erotic and sexual and his symbolism too deviant. Much of his most erotic outpourings can be seen in his pencil sketches. But enough made it onto canvas to cement his reputation.

 

In the early 1890s, Klimt met Emilie Flöge, his companion until the end of his life. Emilie was the younger sister of his brother Ernst’s wife and it is debated whether their relationship was ever sexual. Correspondence between the two is entirely platonic indicating a sacred rather than a sexual love. Klimt idealised Emilie in painting and in life. They were certainly close companions even though while they were together he had a succession of mistresses including models, whores and charwoman and during that period Klimt fathered at least 14 children!

 

In 1892 he was struck by a double tragedy when both his father and brother died.

 

In 1893 Klimt and Matsch were commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. Klimt and Matsch fell out and the works were greatly delayed and not finished until the end of the century. The paintings, Medecine, Philosophy and Jurisprudence proved to be very controversial and even called pornographic. The moral outcry resulted in the paintings not being exhibited in the Great Hall. He never accepted a public commission after that. (Sadly all three paintings were destroyed by the retreating Nazis in 1945.)

 

In 1897 Klimt formed the Secession Mouvement to encourage young unconventional artists. They published a magazine called Ver Sacrum, and succeeded in attracting important foreign art to Vienna. Secession’s first exhibition of foreign art was a huge success and Secession became the most important art movement in Vienna.

In 1900 he exhibited his painting ‘Philosophy’ at the Paris World Fair and even though it was unfinished it won the Grand Prix.

 

In 1905 he resigned from Secession and formed a new movement , Kunstchau (Art Show).

 

His Golden Phase featured extensive use of gold leaf and brought him huge critical and popular success. Arguably his most famous work “The Kiss” was painted in this period. Between 1907 and 1909 he painted five society women wearing fur. In 2006 his 1907 painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer sold for a record $135,000,000 in New York.

 

He avoided cafe society and was in the happy position of his fame meaning that he could be very selective in his clients. They came to him rather than the other way around. Long before dress down Friday, he worked wearing just sandals, a long white smock and no underwear.

 

His work featured many of the grand themes of life, love, sex, birth conception, philosophy and death. His favourite subject was women.

 

He died of pneumonia in 1918 in his apartment.

 

Gustav Klimt paintings are amongst the best selling prints, posters and canvases gracing living rooms, bedrooms and offices the world over. We hope you’ve enjoyed our facts about Gustav Klimt and we’ve inspired you to own some Gustav Klimt art for yourself.

GUSTAV KLIMT

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Austrian born 1862 - died 1918

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Symbolist painter

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The female form and sensuality was his favourite subject

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His successful ‘Gold Phase’ included much use of gold leaf

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Long before “dress down Friday”, he wore no underpants while painting

 

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Most famous painting is arguably, ‘The Kiss’

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Painted the grand themes, life, love, sex, birth, philosophy and death

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Some of his paintings were considered too erotic, pornographic and even deviant in his time

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His painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer sold for 135 million dollars in 2006

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Rumoured to have fathered at least 14 children possibly more!

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GUSTAVKLIMT

10 fast and fab facts about Gustav Klimt

Facts about Gustav Klimt
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The Kiss, c.1907
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‘Klimt’ by Rachel Barnes
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