Biography of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

Austrian painter born in Baumgarten (then a suburb of Vienna) on July 14, 1862, and died in Vienna on February 6, 1918, regarded as prominent prototype of Art Nouveau and modernism.

Gustav Klimt was the second of seven children that Ernest Klimt, a goldsmith and engraver of Bohemia, and the Viennese Anna Finstern had.

In 1876, Klimt began his studies at the school of Arts and crafts in the Austrian Museum for art and industry (currently Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst), to then go to the school of painting of the Professor Laufberger, where he/she studied until his death, which occurred in 1881. While studying, he/she began to work alongside his brother Ernst and his schoolmate Franz Matsch in the elaboration of the graffiti of Laufberger, in the courtyard of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The group, which is called Kunstlerkompanie, started to get your first orders in 1880: several paintings for the roof of a Hall of Palace Sturany of Vienna and the roof of the baths of Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia.

Throughout the 1980s, the two brothers and Franz Mastch established a joint study in Vienna and worked in the decoration of several public buildings and private of the city, among them the Hermesvilla in Lainz (near Vienna), Reichenberg theatre and the Vienna Burgtheater. Meanwhile, Klimt began to paint his first works, fable and Idyll, and received the Golden merit cross for their artistic activities.

In 1892, after twelve years of work in common, the Klimt group was found before a period in which is slowed his work: on the one hand died the father of the brothers in August, and more later, in December, the own Ernst Klimt.

While the rift between Klimt and Mastch each time was more evident, both initiated a project for the decoration of the Aula Magna of the University Vienna, in which Klimt was responsible for the production of panels representing philosophy, medicine and jurisprudence.

In 1897, when was founded the Union of figurative artists of Austria, also called Viennese secession, Gustav Klimt became one of their key personalities. This secession, born following the model of the secessionist young Germans, was formed by a group of artists who sought to break with the ancestral isolation and the existing gap until that time in the Austrian art. The ideological Journal of this movement, see Sacrum, also founded that same year, became the organ of diffusion of ideals.

In the following years, the artist presented in the samples of secession several works that had a controversial reception among the public, as it is the case already mentioned panels, philosophy and medicine, and the great Beethoven frieze; the last of his works presented at the secession was water serpents (II), but in 1905 resigned definitively to the custom of the Aula Magna of the University of Vienna, after which requested that the projects were returned to him. In that same year, he/she painted the portrait of Margaret Stonborough Wittgenstein and the three ages of woman. The following year, he/she broke with the secession due to internal dissensions; Next he/she lined up a series of artists who were called Kunstschau or group Klimt", among those who were, among others, Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann.

At that time, he/she painted the portrait of Fritza Riedler, one of the first large portraits of their golden period, which was followed by the Kiss, and of the first portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. The "Kunstschau Wien", first official sample group Klimt, in which the artist made his inaugural speech and exhibited sixteen works was opened in the summer of 1908.

Travel, participation in international exhibitions and an intense pictorial activity marked the last years of his life. To 1912, his portraits and landscapes began to be distinguished by the particularity of the "flowery style", which had begun in the second portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

In 1917, a year before his death, the Academy of fine arts in Vienna and the Academy of Munich was named an honorary member. Just then, the return from a trip to Romania, suffered an attack of apoplexy, which had to be admitted to the hospital in Vienna, where he/she died on February 6 at the age of 56. In his study were a large number of unfinished works.


First and foremost, Klimt was influenced by the cultural and ideological events of the Vienna of the late 19th century and early 20th, reason why his work, his conception of art and his painting include the essential environment topics.

Klimt, through successive stages of evolution of their language, developed a sophisticated Web of allegorical relationships that pervade, even in a fundamental way, the sense of the ornamental signs and own relations of pictorial representation.

In the early stages of his artistic life, Klimt was influenced by Hans Mackart, the most famous of the Viennese painters of the second half of the 19th century, so much so that at the beginning he/she was considered successor to this. However, his influences began to soon move away from Mackart, time which began a stage which played equally virtuous realism and symbolism.

Klimt painting gave a turning point in the early days of secession, when he/she began his real personal maturity period, and he/she himself became the most unique personality of the new Austrian art. Among the works that best define this change - located around the years 1898 and 1899 - there are two, Palas Atenea (1898) and Nuda veritas (1899), which are closely related under the thematic and formal point of view. The first, carried out in the characteristic square format of Klimt, deals with a mythological theme used in all Central European secessionist movements; in the second, the protagonism falls to the erotic nude of a woman with hair on fire.

His most controversial works were decorative panels for the Aula Magna of the University of Vienna: philosophy (1900), medicine (1901) and jurisprudence (1907), which offered a vision which, in a way, was ahead of his time by questioning the idea of progress of these sciences. Unfortunately, these works, along with others by Klimt, were destroyed in the fire of the Immendorf Castle in 1945.

With his portraits, however, reached much more favorable critical Klimt. Theirs was an innovative contribution to contemporary portraiture, especially to the women. Towards 1898 its first portraits already possessed a remarkable maturity, with portraits of Sonja Nips and Serena Lederer. In these two works coined the double compositional model of his later period: the female figure appears in three quarters against the viewer and sitting position to the right of the box if the author uses the square format, either foot, appears in a highly stylized portrait format. The real big change came with the portrait of Emile Floge, (1902), work that shows which was Klimt girlfriend for many years, owner of a fashion house of Vienna, to which the artist made several designs of dresses. In this portrait, the body of the figure is dissolved on the background and introduces the ornament of the clothing, which makes that the face as a sign that there is really a person after the profuse decoration of the environment is only. The portrait of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein and Fritza Riedler, two-piece Summit made in 1905 and 1906, respectively, show an original decoration of the funds, which are treated as mere geometric compositions on the planes of the fabric, a conception that is surprising for its modernity. Even in the portrait of Fritza Riedler, it focuses behind the head of the woman a motif alluding directly to the headdress of the velazquena Mariana of Austria. And it is that Velazquez had a great influence in the time of Klimt's artistic environments. This is, moreover, the first work in which the artist uses keys Golden, so characteristic of his work over time, as you can see in the Kiss (1907-1908), Judith I (1901) and Judit II (1909).

Kiss (oil on canvas, 1907-08). Österreichische Galerie (Vienna, Austria).

In June 2006 Klimt jumped to the front pages of the Rotary around the world by becoming the most expensive box of history author, displacing the same Picasso; his portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907) was sold, after many vicissitudes, by its legitimate owner, the niece (sole survivor) of the portrayed, Maria Altmann, the magnate of Ronald S. Lauder, son of the legendary Estée Lauder cosmetics, for 135 million dollars (106.8 million euros); a number of very remote of the 82.4 million euros paid by the boy with pipe of the artist from Malaga. In July of that same year the box was already installed in its new dependencies, the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian in New York, a small museum that will house a large selection of Austrian-German art in the city of the skyscrapers.


FAERNA GARCÍA-BERMEJO, J. M. (dir.). Gustav Klimt. (Barcelona: Poligrafa: Globus communication, 1996).

FLIEDL, G. Gustav Klimt: 1862-1918: the world with female form. (Köln: Benedikt Taschen, cop. 1991).

HUICI, F. Klimt. (Madrid: Anaya, 1989).

The complete paintings of Klimt. ([Etc.] Barcelona: Noguer, D.L.1981).

PAULI, T. (ed.lit.). Gustav Klimt. (Madrid: Sociedad Editorial Electra Spain, cop. 2000).

WHITFORD, F. Klimt. (London: Thames and Hudson [transl. Spanish: Barcelona: Destino, 1992]).



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