Klimt, Gustav
The work of the Austrian painter and illustrator Gustav Klimt, b. July 14, 1862, d. Feb. 6, 1918, founder of the school of painting known as the Vienna Sezession, embodies the high-keyed erotic, psychological, and aesthetic preoccupations of turn-of-the-century Vienna's dazzling intellectual world.

1024 x 768 91.2K
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Painted: 1895
Detail of a well-dressed woman closing her
eyes and abondonning herself to her first kiss.
A gypsy-like man looks down
on her about to kiss her.
Museum der Stadt Wien

He has been called the preeminent exponent of ART NOUVEAU. Klimt began (1883) as an artist-decorator in association with his brother and Franz Matsoh. In 1886-92, Klimt executed mural decorations for staircases at the Burgtheater and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna; these confirmed Klimt's eclecticism and broadened his range of historical references. Klimt was a cofounder and the first president of the Vienna Secession, a group of modernist architects and artists who organized their own exhibition society and gave rise to the SECESSION MOVEMENT, or the Viennese version of Art Nouveau. He was also a frequent contributor to Ver Sacrum, the group's journal.

Among the important decorative projects undertaken by Klimt were his celebrated Beethoven frieze (1902; Osterreichische Galerie), a cycle of mosaic decorations for Josef Hofmann's Palais Stoclet in Brussels (1905-09), and numerous book illustrations.

 The Beethoven Frieze
Detail from the first wall of the frieze depicting man's search of happiness. This section shows a naked man and woman praying for the knight (modelled on Gustav Mahler) who will set out in search of happiness. Behind the man and woman is a second woman who gazes on in contemplation. Above the knight other woman give the knight a laurel crown.

Detail from the third wall of the frieze depicting man's search of happiness. This section shows the woman used in the repeating motif sitting. Her swirling hair and the gold behind her have a grain like wood.

1024 x 768 126.0K
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The Beethoven Frieze
(First Wall) Painted: 1902
Secession Building
The Beethoven Frieze
(Third Wall) Painted: 1902
Secession Building

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The primal forces of sexuality, regeneration, love, and death form the dominant themes of Klimt's work. His paintings of femmes fatales, such as Judith I (1901; Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna), personify the dark side of sexual attraction. The Kiss (1907-08; Osterreichische Galerie) celebrates the attraction of the sexes; and Hope I (1903; National Gallery, Ottawa) juxtaposes the promise of new life with the destroying force of death. The sensualism and originality of Klimt's art led to a hostile reaction to his three ceiling murals--Philosophy (1900), Medicine (1901), and Jurisprudence (1902)--for the University of Vienna.

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Judith I
Painted: 1901
Osterreichische Galerie

Judith II

473 x 978 66.0K
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797 x 768 98.5K
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The Kiss
Painted: 1907-08
180 x 180 cm
Österreichisches Galerie Wien
Adele Bloch-Bauer I
Painted: 1907
Oil and gold on canvas
138 x 138
Austrian Gallery

1000 x 765 141.0K
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824 x 766 88.6K
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Painted: 1907
Private collection

Emilie Floge
Painted: 1902
(Detail from a portrait of Emilie Floge standing hand on hip, in a dress that she designed.)
Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien

1024 x 642 109.2K
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592 x 767 62.6K
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Bildnis Fritza Riedler
Painted: 1906
Oil on canvas
153 x 133cm
Österreichische Galerie

Die Jungfrau
(The Virgin)
Painted: 1913
Narodni Galerie

1024 x 639 115.1K
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391 x 766 35.2K
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Bildnis Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein
Painted: 1905
Oil on canvas
180 x 90cm
Neue Pinakothek

Die Tänzerin
Painted: 1916-18

492 x 1024 125.4K
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868 x 1200 223.6K
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Mäda Primavesi
Painted: 1912

Wasserschlangen I
Painted: 1904-07

402 x 1024 117.9K
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510 x 741 43.3K
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Dame mit Cape

800 x 529 67.4K
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860 x 1100 193.3K
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Painted: 1916-17

Klimt's style drew upon an enormous range of sources: classical Greek, Byzantine, Egyptian, and Minoan art; late-medieval painting and the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer; photography and the symbolist art of Max Klinger; and the work of both Franz von Stuck and Fernand Khnopff. In synthesizing these diverse sources, Klimt's art achieved both individuality and extreme elegance.