Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter after the Art Noveau style. He was one of the more prominent members of the Vienna Art Noveau or the Vienna Secession movement. Most of Klimt’s paintings revolved around female subjects expressed with frank eroticism and sensuality.

Early Life

Gustav Klimt was born on July 14, 1682 in Baumgarten near Vienna, Austria. He was the second of seven children composed of three boys and four girls. His father, Ernst Klimt, was a gold engraver. His mother, Anna Klimt, had an unrealized ambition to become a musical performer.

The arts seem to be in the blood of the Klimts as the three sons inherited their talents and became quite artistic themselves. Gustav and his brother Ernst Jr. became talented artists while another brother, Georg, was a talented sculptor.

Gustav and the rest of his family grew up poor. This led to frequent changes in their addresses in order to obtain cheaper rent. Gustav lived in poverty for most of his childhood as work for his immigrant father was scarce and hard to come by.

Training and Early Career

At school, Gustav excelled in the arts and was able to show his talents despite the abject poverty he experienced. In 1876, Gustav was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of the Arts and Crafts. He studied there until 1883 where he received training as an architectural painter.

Gustav began his professional career in the arts by painting interior murals in public buildings in Vienna. For his contributions, Gustav was awarded the Golden Order of Merit by Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria in 1888.

Vienna Secession

Gustav Klimt became a founding member and president of the Wiener Sezession or the Vienna Secession in 1897, whose goal was to provide a means for unconventional young artists to exhibit and showcase their works and bring other foreign artists’ works into Vienna. The group did not set out to follow or encourage any particular style.

Golden Phase

Gustav met critical acclaim for his works during his Golden Phase. He began making erotic works, which were branded as "pornography" by his critics. The artistic freedom he enjoyed led him to develop his own techniques such as the use of gold leaf, and for which Gustav enjoyed success. His patrons readily came at his door to create paintings for them. He became quite selective because of this.

Painting Style

Most of Klimt’s most famous works are distinguished for the use of elegant gold and other colored decoration. Most of his paintings had women as subjects, most of which were shrouded with eroticism and sensuality. Most notable of these are often displayed in many of his sketches. Gustav Klimt also did several landscapes later in his life. He died on February 6, 1918 of pneumonia after going down with a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body.

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