Monday 10 October 2011

Gustav Klimt - part 1

This is the first of a three-part post on the life and works of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. When one thinks of the work of Secessionist artist Gustav Klimt, I’m sure that his most famous painting ‘The Kiss’ springs to mind, but it is of course just one of a large body of works. To show the genius of Klimt and how his work developed over his career I’m showing some sixty-eight works over three postings. Part one shows work from the years 1883 – 1901.

Gustav Klimt was born in 1862 in Baumgarten, Austria, the second seven children and the son of a poor jewellery engraver. It was at the age of fourteen, when he entered the University of Plastic Arts in Vienna, that he began developing his talent as an artist. He studied at the University until graduating at the age of twenty, at which time he had been commissioned to create several decorative works, making use of his training in modernist craftsmanship.

He then founded the Känstlercompanie (Company of Artists) studio with his brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch, a fellow student. The three found much success as mural painters, getting contracts from museums, theaters, and other decorative artwork for wealthy patrons. The company eventually ceased to exist, following the death of Ernst, and a falling out with Franz Matsch.

During his years as a decorator, Klimt finely honed his personal style, and the engraving skills his father had taught him. Klimt's paintings often included gold and silver paint, metal, and ceramics, and as much attention was given to ornamental details as to their subjects. Klimt also found inspiration in Byzantine mosaics, which he discovered while exploring Vienna.

In 1897, Gustav Klimt took an interest in politics and rallied other artists to found the Vienna Sezession, a Art Nouveau movement whose goal was to give young, innovative artists a chance to get exposure, and to revolt against the conservative attitudes of the academic art world. He organized several exhibits, attracting thousands from around the world to view their revolutionary art, and even published "Ver Sacrum", a monthly magazine about the movement and its artists. His own personal style came to represent the movement's aesthetics, and in 1902, he painted the "Beethoven Fries", a mural for the Sezession building.

In 1905, following a series of disagreements with other members of the Secession several others left the group, and formed a new association called the Kunstschau (Art Show). His famous painting ‘The Kiss’ was created between 1907 and 1908, but it is still associated with the Secession.

1907-8 The Kiss 
oil on canvas

Klimt was a very popular artist, but he was also quite controversial. He was renowned for his womanising, and often used prostitutes as models. Many of his works were considered too sensual for the mores of early 20th Century Vienna, and even his more historical, or mythical works featuring nudes were often criticised for being too erotic. Fortunately, the scandals only served to heighten Klimt's international recognition, if not his notoriety.

In addition to women, Klimt often travelled to the outskirts of Vienna, and the Italian countryside, finding inspiration in nature, particularly autumnal landscapes, which already showed the rich golden hues of his own decorative designs. From the opulence of the Viennese Bourgeoisie to the mythological, from eroticism to the simple beauty of nature, Klimt's artwork always maintained its highly stylized feel, but what remains one of its most fascinating traits is that while concentrating on the superficial, its depth cannot be ignored.

In 1917, he was made an honorary member the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts. In January of the following year at the age of 55, Klimt suffered a stroke while working in his apartment. Weakened from the stroke, and suffering from pneumonia, he died less than a month later on February 6th, 1918.

1883 Fable 
oil on canvas

1886 The Theatre in Taormina

1886-8 Head of a Recumbent Man, Supporting Himself 

1889 Allegory of Sculpture 
pencil, watercolour, gold

1890 Joseph Pembauer 
oil on canvas

1894c Portrait of a Lady 
oil on wood

1895 Love

1895 Music I 
oil on canvas

1896 Junius 
chalk, pencil, gold

1896 Sculpture

1897 Tragedy

1897-8 Médecine (composition draft) 
oil on canvas

1898 Pallas Athene 
oil on canvas

1898 Portrait of Helene Klimt (his niece)

1898 Portrait of Sonja Knips

1898 Poster for the 1st Secession exhibition 

1899 After the Rain (Garden with Chickens in St Agatha)

1899 Nude Veritas oil on canvas

1899 Schubert at the Piano

c1899 Mermaids (Whitefish) 
oil on canvas

1900-07 Médecine (Hygieia) 
oil on canvas

1901 Buchenwald


  1. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

  2. Klimt is my favourite of all artist. Love his pictures full of love, erotics, lesbian love, love mother to baby


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.