Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgaten near Vienna Austria. His father, Ernst Klimt, formerly from Bohemia, was a Gold engraver, something to remember when you look at some of the paintings of his son as many of them use gold foiling as a major element within their composition.
In 1876, Klimt was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts where he studied until 1883, and received training as an architectural painter. Klimt readily accepted the principles of a conservative training; his early work may be classified as academic. Klimt began his professional career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings including a successful series of “Allegories and Emblems”
In 1892 both Klimt’s father and Brother Ernst died, and he had to assume financial responsibility for his father’s and brother’s families. These tragedies affected his artistic vision drastically, and soon he would veer toward a new personal style for which his fame and reputation as an artist are entirely based.
In the early 1890s, Klimt met Emilie Flöge, who, notwithstanding the artist’s relationships with other women, was to be his companion until the end of his life. Whether his relationship with Flöge was sexual one or not is debatable, but during that period Klimt fathered at least 14 illegitimate children with various partners. In 1894, Klimt executed a series of murals for the Viennese University which incurred the wrath of Viennese critics for their audacious decorative style and overt eroticism. The resulting scandal, because the works were condemned as pornographic, infuriated the artist, a true Bohemian in every sense of the term and helped to inspire the artist to break away from the conservative Academy of Fine arts.
In 1897 Gustav Klimt founded with other artists and architects such as Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffman the Vienna Secession and became its first president. By that time Klimt had developed his own very recognizable characteristic style which became the trademark of the movement. Like impressionism and art nouveau, Secession was also an international revolt against the traditional academic art style that was spearheaded by Bouguereau in Paris.
The more personal aspects of Klimt’s life remain shrouded in mystery. As is evident from his paintings, which often treat subjects such as male-female relationships and the femme fatale, Klimt was a rapacious lover of women and pursued what would be even by today’s socially adjusted standards, something of a scandalous unconventional lifestyle. For 27 years Klimt maintained a steadfast relationship with Emilie Flöge, but his affairs with prominent married society women were notorious, his conquests including the leading femme fatale of the age, Alma Mahler, and the wealthy Adele Bloch-Bauer. These women often appear in various guises in Klimt’s paintings. Little else of Klimt’s personal life is known; his public has little recourse but to take the artist’s own advice and carefully study his paintings to try to gain an insight into the man behind them.
By 1902 Klimt had executed the famous Beethoven frieze for Josef Maria Olbrich’s Secession building, which can still be visited in the basement of the building.
Klimt’s most successful works include “The Kiss” and a series of portraits he did of fashionable Viennese matrons, such as “Frau Fritza Riedler” and “Frau Adele Bloch-Bauer” “The Kiss,” is Gustav Klimt’s best known painting, its beautifully rendered figures float dreamlike in space, wrapped in an abstracted mosaic robe that veils graceful organic human contours. The rhythmic flowing line and biomorphic form of Klimt’s unique paintings became a potent influence on the Klimt continued to receive prominent public commissions until the outbreak of World War One, when the artist changed his focus to society portraits for the Viennese elite and a series of magnificent landscapes.
Gustav Klimt died in Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke on January 11th and a bout of pneumonia. He was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. Many of Klimt’s paintings were left unfinished but his reputation has kept on growing enormously, he is now listed as one of the most popular artists of the last Century.Google+