(Baumgarten near Vienna 1862 - Vienna 1918)
Gustav Klimt was born near Vienna in 1862. He should not only influence Vienna at the turn of the century, but also become one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Klimt is one of the most famous representatives of Art Nouveau and is still one of the most important Austrian painters today. His brothers, Ernst and Georg Klimt, were also artists.
Gustav Klimt was supposed to become a gold engraver like his father but received a scholarship for the Vienna School of Applied Arts. In 1883 he finished his studies there and together with Franz Matsch and his brother Ernst founded a studio community, the Compagnie, in which numerous wall and ceiling paintings were created from 1885, including those at the Vienna Burgtheater, theaters in Karlsbad, Fiume and Reichenberg and in the stairwell of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. At that time, Klimt was already a respected painter, in whose oil paintings and drawings a strong influence of historicist art could be seen. In the sense of historicism, Klimt had to acquire many techniques and styles, which was of great value for his later development as a draftsman.
In 1894 Klimt was commissioned to work with Franz Matsch from the k. k. Ministry of Education to design the ceiling in the newly built university with paintings. The individual faculties should be presented in there. The so-called faculty pictures represented the subjects medicine, philosophy, theology and jurisprudence. Klimt's presentation of the rational sciences did not correspond to the contemporary taste and so 87 faculty members rejected his suggestions. In 1900 there was a huge scandal on the presentation of Klimt's first faculty picture, “Philosophy”. In Paris, however, the painting was celebrated. The pictures of "Medicine" (1901) and "Jurisprudence" (1903) were also not properly appreciated by the clients and so Klimt bought the faculty pictures back with the help of private patrons in 1905 and returned his fee. Koloman Moser and the Lederer family bought the designs back. All three pictures were relocated during World War II and burned in 1945 in Immendorf Castle in Lower Austria. Franz Matsch's picture “Theology” is still hanging in the university today.
In 1897, when the Secession artists' association was founded, Klimt was appointed its first president. He designed the metal doors for the Secession building constructed by Josef Olbrich in 1897/1898. For the Secession magazine Ver Sacrum ("The Holy Spring") Klimt provided numerous illustrations from 1898 to 1903. In 1902, the Beethoven frieze was created for the left side room of the Vienna Secession building, in which the Beethoven statue of Klinger is located. Again, there were arguments in the press.
In 1903 the Secession showed 80 works by Klimt.
In 1905 he left the Secession together with other artists, including Carl Moll, because some of his painter colleagues pursued a style that was too "naturalistic" for him. Klimt's pictures were then removed from the Secession building. In the same year, Klimt became a member of the German Association of Artists.
Klimt was close friends with the founders of the Wiener Werkstätte, Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. In 1904 Josef Hoffmann was entrusted with the design of a city palace for the Belgian industrialist Adolphe Stoclet in Brussels; the building went down in art history as the Palais Stoclet. Gustav Klimt was commissioned to design the frieze, now known as the Stoclet frieze, for the dining room of the palace. In 1905, Klimt began making work drawings, which are now kept in the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. In 1908 he changed the designs again. Klimt was present in Brussels for the assembly of the inlay work carried out by the Leopold Forstner mosaic workshop in 1911.
In 1908 Klimt showed the paintings "Adele Bloch-Bauer" and "The Kiss" which he had painted in the "golden style" at the art show and was at the height of his work. Klimt's most famous painting, The Kiss, was immediately bought by the k.k. Ministry of Culture and Education.
International exhibitions in Germany, Belgium, England, Italy, France and Spain bear witness to Klimt's importance in the art world of that time. He exhibited in Prague and Dresden in 1908, in Munich in 1909, and at the Venice Biennale in 1910, where his works were enthusiastically received. In 1911 there was an exhibition in Rome, in 1913 in Budapest, Munich and Mannheim. In 1914 he traveled to Rome again with the Association of Austrian Artists and was shown with Schiele and Kokoschka in the Association's exhibition in Berlin in 1916.
Klimt portrayed the ladies of Viennese society, and the paper works for them represent a separate category in his graphic work. The numerous studies also show the relentless search for the balance between flowing clothes and their integration into the flat background, between geometric rigor and linear sweep.
In the last ten years, Klimt has also increasingly devoted himself to landscape painting. He made drawings in which the influence of Van Gogh, whose works had impressed Klimt as early as 1906 during an exhibition in Vienna, can be felt.
From 1900 to 1916 Gustav Klimt was mainly at the Attersee in Upper Austria on summer vacation. Here he created most of his landscape paintings.
Gustav Klimt died in Vienna in 1918.
His works of art are now in private and public collections all over the world, e. g. in the Austrian gallery Belvedere in Vienna, the Neue Galerie in New York and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome. Around 250 oil paintings and more than 4000 drawings are attributed to Klimt today.