Gustav Klimt – The Pioneer of Vienna Art Nouveau

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter of symbolism and the Art Nouveau movement, born on July 14, 1862 to Ernst Klimt, a gold engraver, and Anna Klimt, in Baumgarten, a small place near Vienna. He had two brothers and four sisters and was the second of the brothers. His childhood struggled with poverty and economic hardship. With a scholarship in 1876, Gustav Klimt completed his training as an architectural painter at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in 1883. His basic work reflected the elements of conservative training. In 1877, his brother Ernst also joined the Vienna School.

Both brothers, together with a friend, Franz Matsch formed a great team called “Company of Artists”. With the help of their teachers, the trio completed the murals for the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in 1880. Gustav Klimt began his career painting the ceilings and other interiors of tall buildings. Paintings, sketches and murals formed most of his works, themed mainly around the female body. He adored and idolized Hans Makart, the famous history painter of his time. A series of “Allegories and Emblems” was Klimt’s first great success.

Gustav Klimt, for his great dedication and contribution to the Burgtheatre paintings, was awarded the Golden Order of Merit in 1888 by Franz Josef I, the then Emperor of Austria. Klimt became the most prominent member of the University of Vienna and the University of Munich. He met Emilie Floge in 1890, who became his life partner. Later, in 1892, his practice was seriously affected due to the death of his father and brother and the financial responsibility for their families passed to him. In 1894, Gustav began painting “Philosophy”, “Medicine” and “Jurisprudence” for the Great Hall of the University of Vienna, his last public commission. Branded as pornographic and highly criticized, the three paintings were never used. Klimt with some others founded the Wiener Secession (Vienna Secession or Art Nouveau Vienna) in 1897 and became its president. He remained with the Secession until 1908.

The peak of Gustav’s career was marked by a mixture of critical reactions and enthusiastic reviews. The artist began the use of gold in paintings, such as “Pallas Athene (1898)” and “Judith I (1901)”. Klimt’s most famous works in his ‘Golden Phase’ were the “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” in 1907 and “The Kiss” in 1907-1908. In 1904, his best art, “Expectation” and “Fulfillment”, which he created with the help of fellow artists, was used to adorn the home of Belgium’s richest industrialist. Gustav Klimt painted many canvases of women wrapped in fur between 1907 and 1909. He was very selective in choosing the subject and theme of the paintings. He worked primarily on sexually active and erotic pieces, which sparked his sexual interest in women.

In 1911, his painting “Death and Life (1911)” was awarded as the best painting at the Universal Exhibition in Rome. His mother, Anna, died in 1915 and 3 years later, on February 6, 1918, Gustav Klimt breathed his last in Vienna, Austria, due to pneumonia and a stroke. He left many of his paintings unfinished. Some of his paintings have reached record prices, for example, “Landhaus am Attersee” sold for $ 29.13 million and “Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907)” sold for $ 135 million.

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