Gustav Klimt

599px-Gustav_Klimt_016Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt died in Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia due to the influenza epidemic of that year. Born July 14, 1862, he became one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement and is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body. Born in Baumgarten, near Vienna in Austria-Hungary he displayed artistic talent early on but lived in poverty while attending the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), where he studied architectural painting until 1883.He revered the foremost history painter of the time, Hans Makart and readily accepted the principles of a conservative training and his early work may be classified as academic.

In 1888, Klimt received the Golden order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria for his contributions to murals painted in the Burgtheater in Vienna. He also became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna. He also became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 where he remained until 1908. The group’s goals were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the best foreign artists’ works to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine to showcase members’ work.The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style—Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group’s symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts—and Klimt painted his radical version in 1898.

In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to create three paintings to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall in the University of Vienna. Not completed until the turn of the century, his three paintings, Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence, were criticized for their radical themes and material and caused a public outcry from all quarters—political, aesthetic, and religious. As a result, they were not displayed on the ceiling of the Great Hall. as a result This was the last public commission accepted by the artist for some time.In 1902, Klimt finished the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition, which was intended to be a celebration of the composer and featured a monumental, polychromed sculpture by Max Klinger. Meant for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials. After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it did not go on display until 1986. The face on the Beethoven portrait resembled the composer and Vienna Court Opera director Gustav Mahler.

Klimt’s ‘Golden Phase’ was marked by positive critical reaction and success. Many of his paintings from this period used gold leaf; the prominent use of gold can first be traced back to Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), although the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907–1908). Klimt travelled little but trips to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique and his Byzantine imagery. In 1904, he collaborated with other artists on the lavish Palais Stoclet, the home of a wealthy Belgian industrialist, which was one of the grandest monuments of the Art Nouveau age. Klimt’s contributions to the dining room, including both Fulfillment and Expectation, were some of his finest decorative work, and as he publicly stated, “probably the ultimate stage of my development of ornament.

Between 1907 and 1909, Klimt painted five canvases of society women wrapped in fur. His apparent love of costume is expressed in the many photographs of Flöge modeling clothing he designed.In 1911 his painting Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome. In 1915 his mother Anna died. Klimt was buried at the Hietzinger Cemetery in Hietzing, Vienna. Numerous paintings were left unfinished. However those he did finish before his untimely demise have brought some of the highest prices recorded for individual works of art. In November 2003, Klimt’s Landhaus am Attersee sold for $29,128,000, and plenty of other examples of his work have also fetched vast sums of money at auction.

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