Gustav Klimt Artist Biography
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter. His work caused controversy for its celebration of sexuality, but he is now one of the most expensive artists of the 20th century and one of the most frequently reproduced artists in history. Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, in Austria-Hungary, the second of seven children. His father, Ernst Klimt the Elder, was a gold engraver. In 1876, Klimt was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. He received training as an architectural painter until 1883. Klimt readily accepted the principles of a conservative schooling and his early work may be classified as academic. In 1892 both Klimts father and brother Ernst died, and he had to assume financial responsibility for both his fathers and brothers families. The tragedies affected his artistic vision and he veered toward a new personal style. At this time, he met Emilie Floge, who was to be his companion until the end of his life. In 1897, Klimt became the founder-president of the Vienna Secession, the breakaway artists society that included the painter Carl Moll, and designers and architects such as Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Koloman Moser. The group aimed to overthrow the stifling conventions of academic Viennese painting with the full force of naked truth. Their goals were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the best foreign artists works to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine. He remained with the Secession until 1908. Klimts Golden Phase, between 1899 and 1910, was marked by positive critical reaction and success. Many of his paintings from the period used gold leaf; tracing back to Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901).The work most popularly associated with this period, and his most famous painting, is the The Kiss (1907-1908). The Kiss reflected Klimts fascination with eroticism in an era when another Austrian, Sigmund Freud, was placing sexuality in the public sphere.Klimt travelled infrequently but trips to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique and Byzantine imagery. He borrowed eclectically from Egyptian design, Byzantine art, Art Nouveau, Post Impressionism, and other European avant-garde movements to develop his distinctive style. He was also inspired by the engravings of Albrecht Drer, the work of Aubrey Beardsley, late medieval European painting, and the Japanese Rimpa School.His work, which frequently incorporated gold paint and mosaic-like pattern, is characterised by decorative line and respect for the dimensionality of the painted surface. Klimts mature style combined richly decorative surface patterning with complex symbolism and allegory, often with overtly sexual content. His art has influence, amongst others, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. He is also responsible for helping to transform Vienna into a leading centre for culture and the arts at the turn of the century.Reputedly the father of 14 illegitimate children, Klimt died in Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia due to the influenza epidemic. He never married and never painted a single self-portrait. In a rare writing, Klimt stated I have never painted a self portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women... There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night... Whoever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures.Klimts paintings have brought some of the highest prices ever recorded for individual works of art. In 2006, the 1907 portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, was purchased for the Neue Galerie New York for a reported $135 million, surpassing Picassos Boy With a Pipe, as the highest reported price ever paid for a painting. In 2012, Vienna had numerous special exhibitions to commemorate Klimts 150th birthday.