Friday, December 13, 2013

The Story of Gustav Klimt the Painter

Gustav Klimt July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918

Few people go through life without hearing his name or seeing his painting ‘The Kiss’. Gustav Klimt was an Austrian artist born in 1862 just outside of Vienna. He was a symbolist painter whose pieces were often considered pornographic at the time, and he was certainly fond of the female form, fathering upwards of fourteen children.

Klimt was commissioned to create public art only once, for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna; however, many officials reacted with shock and horror to his piece which never went up. The 3 separate paintings hung in a gallery until they were all destroyed by the retreating SS forces during World War Two

Growing up Klimt idolised another very popular Viennese painter Hans Makart, and was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. He went his own way, however, when he moved on to the Vienna art scene and became one of the founding members of the ‘Wiener Sezession’ (Vienna Secession) in 1897. This was a group of artists who couldn’t stand the conservative nature of the art scene, regulated by the Association of Austrian Artists. Klimt became the first president of this new and pioneering group, who made waves across Vienna with the slogan ‘To every age its art, to art its freedom’. Similar secession movements were even set up in Berlin and Munich. The group held its very first exhibition in Vienna in 1898, but the heady days of dissident art came to an end in 1905 due to differences of artistic opinion between the Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists.

"The Kiss" painted between 1908 to 1909

After the Secession years, Klimt really found success, using the period signature gold leaf, and receiving first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome. Klimt continued to work up until suffering a fatal stroke on February 6, 1918. He was buried at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. He left behind one of the most impressive artistic legacies to date, with his portrait ‘Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ selling for $135 million - the highest price ever recorded for a painting.