Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt
Klimt signature

“Whoever wants to know something about me—as an artist, the only notable thing—ought to look carefully at my pictures and try and see in them what I am and what I want to do.”

- Gustav Klimt

“All art is erotic.”

- Gustav Klimt

Find beautiful framed art prints by Gustav Klimt.

The Kiss

The Kiss

by Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt Biography

Austrian Painter, 1887 - 1986

Gustav Klimt, an Austrian-born painter, is considered the embodiment of Art Nouveau, and was founder of the school of painting known as the Vienna Secession. Turn-of-the-century Vienna was obsessed with the aesthetic and the erotic. It was a time of happiness and abandon as well as dazzling intellectualism.

Flowery Garden

Flowery Garden

by Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt's art spoke the deep psychological truth of his time, and as is often the case was violently criticized for it. His subtly erotic work was frequently displayed behind a screen so as not to corrupt the sensibilities of the young.

Klimt's work reflected the contradiction of his time. He combined a deliciously sensual mixture of opposites; ecstasy and terror, life and death, austerity and pleasure.

The sensual figures in The Kiss, although portrayed in a flat, two-dimensional way are surrounded in gold as if to be immortalized; as if to make the sensual divine. The Kiss is the most important work of Klimt's "golden phase". The enveloping robe of the man subtracts force from the sexual aspect of the painting and transforms the kiss into a version that won the public's enthusasm and the acceptance of the puritanical bourgeoisie.

Gustav Klimt - Die Lebensalter

Die Lebensalter

by Gustav Klimt

The exposed yet invulnerable look of the woman, Judith, is yet another example of the appealing coexistence of opposite qualities. Klimt's feminine portraits in gold belong among his most important works.

Klimt's style drew upon an enormous range of sources: classical Greek, Byzantine, Egyptian, and Minoan art; late-medieval painting and photography. In synthesizing these diverse sources, Klimt's art achieved both individuality and extreme elegance.

Gustav Klimt was born on July 14, 1862 in Baumgarten, near Vienna. He was the second of seven children born to a meticulous engraver and carver. Klimt's family was very poor and had to move frequently to ever cheaper living quarters. In 1873, Austria experienced an economic crisis and Klimt's father was unemployed for some time.

Gustav Klimt - Judith


by Gustav Klimt

Klimt's talent was recognized at an early age. He entered the School of Arts and Trades of Vienna at the age of fourteen. Klimt, along with his brother Ernst and Franz Matsch, were so talented that their professors allowed them to work on their own decoration projects. At the time, Klimt's style was hyperrealistic, inspired by the work of Hans Makart, one of the most famous painters of the day.

In 1892, Klimt and Matsch were commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and Education to decorate the Great Hall of the University. Matsch was to paint Theology. Klimt was to paint the other three, Philosophy, Jurisprudence and Medicine. The critics and general public were offended by his works. The Austrian Congress conducted a poll over his paintings and Klimt was incriminated for "pornography and excessive perversion."

The scandal over these paintings caused Klimt to reflect that public commissions were not compatible with his work.

From 1894 until 1897, Klimt was a member of the Cooperative Society of Artists, a conservative organization. Membership was essential to every artist hoping to make a living. By 1897, Klimt and other members thought that this society had exerted a negative influence on Austrian art and so they formed their own group, named the Association of Austrian Visual Artists, widely known as the Secession.

The Secession had three main aims: to provide young artists the opportunity to exhibit their work, to bring to Vienna the best foreign artists, and to publish its own magazine, Ver Sacrum.

Gustav Klimt - Die Tanzerin

Die Tanzerin

by Gustav Klimt

In one of the notable paintings that announced a change in Klimt's career, Nuda Veritas, 1899, includes a quotation from the dramatist Schiller: "If you cannot please everyone with your art, please a few. To please many is bad." Gustav Klimt had previously worked hard to please his public. He now recognized no standards but his own.

By 1907, Klimt began to doubt. The Secession's ideal, the harmony of the arts and the redemption of the world through art had proven to be an unachievable utopia. He decided to abandon The Secession.

Klimt began exploring the theme of sexuality in art. He painted women and their maddening eroticism. His work was celebrated and he became a popular portraitist of women. However, the open eroticism of his work clashed with the Victorian repression of the day. Klimt intriguingly painted women nude before painting in their clothing.

Klimt also painted landscapes based on the work of the Impressionists. As usual, though, he was interested in his own approach. Rather than dwell on the play of light and shadows over time, Klimt built enameled mosaics by mixing naturalism and modernism. Strangely, Klimt did not draw sketches or studies for his landscapes, even though he was a studio painter and accustomed to doing this for his portraits and allegories.

Gustav Klimt never married nor is there any evidence that he had a long-term relationship with any woman. However, many of the models who posed for Klimt were at one time or another his lover. Visitors to Klimt's studio were often surprised to find two or three women lounging around in a state of undress. Klimt's sensual works depicting naked and often aroused women provide a clear insight into his sexuality and attitude toward women.

Klimt died of pneumonia a few months before the outbreak of World War I.

Find beautiful framed art prints by Gustav Klimt.

More art by Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt - Danae


by Gustav Klimt

The image is a depiction of the legend about Danae mating with Zeus in the form of a gold shower, to conceive Perseus. The eroticism in this piece is typical of Klimt's work.

Gustav Klimt - Mada Primavesi

Mäda Primavesi

by Gustav Klimt

Klimt selected an open, painterly treatment that contrasts with the highly stylized background. The lighthearted, decorative motifs seem particularly appropriate to the nine-year-old sitter.

Gustav Klimt - Die Jungfrau (The Virgin)

Die Jungfrau (The Virgin)

by Gustav Klimt

A beautiful, very colorful painting of a group of women yawning, stretching and sleeping in one bed entangled in multi-colored duvets.

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