Our Artists

Gustav Klimt

Considered as the “painter of women”, Gustav Klimt became one of the key figures of symbolism and Art nouveau. He was one of the founders of the Vienna “Secession” group, which broke away from academicism. In his paintings, Klimt tackled themes of death and eroticism, often causing heated arguments, but his artistic genius made him a painter who was recognised by the public and official circles.


Klimt, a decorative painter

Gustav Klimt was born on 14 July 1862 in the suburbs of Vienna, and very soon showed a talent for drawing and painting. He studied at the School of Decorative Arts in Vienna from 1876 to 1883 and, in 1879, began a career as decorative painter with the “Compagnie des Artistes”, which he founded with his brother Ernst and their friend Franz Matsch. He mainly produced wall décors for public buildings, which he painted in the great academic tradition.
His love of naturalistic detail and the
accuracy of his portraits soon made his reputation as an artist. The main features of his work were a profusion of detail, lavish décors and the use of colour. He was also known for his use of gold in his paintings. His artistic qualities were recognised in 1888, when he was awarded the Gold Cross for artistic merit by Emperor Franz-Joseph 1. 

Breaking away from academicism: setting up the Vienna “Secession” 

Inspired by Japanese etchings, symbolism and Art nouveau, Klimt gradually moved away from academicism. Advocating a renaissance of the arts against the moral order, he and other artists founded the Vienna “Secession” in 1897. The group had its own exhibition room and illustrated review and recommended circulating Art nouveau in Austria.
This was a very productive period for the painter, who produced a large number of paintings and around 4000 drawings. These included Pallas Athénée (Pallas Athene) which marked his emancipation from official art.
His major work during this period was a commission from Vienna University for three allegorical panels representing Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence. These monumental works caused fierce debate due to their erotic character and the asymmetry in the composition.  However, Philosophy was awarded the Gold Medal at the Paris World Fair in 1900.

Klimt, an Austrian figure in the world of Art nouveau and symbolism

Having fallen out with a number of artists in the group, Klimt left the Secession in 1905. He refined his style and produced some of his most famous works: Judith I (1901), Danae (1906) and Le Baiser (The Kiss) (1907-1908). The theme of the dominant woman recurs in Klimt’s works, along with death and eroticism.
He also painted a few landscapes without people, which gives them a particularly peaceful quality. During the First World War, he no longer accepted public commissions, but produced portraits for private patrons. This work as almost a society portraitist enabled him to further refine his concept of women in painting.
Gustav Klimt died of apoplexy in 1918. He was the model and master for Egon Schiele and Oscar Kokoschka, but was also considered by the “Blaue Reiter” to be the forerunner of lyrical abstraction.


The wall paintings at Vienna University
The mosaics at the Stoclet palace in Brussels
Birkenwald, 1901
Judith I, 1902
Émilie Flöge, 1902
The Golden Knight, 1903
Judith II, 1909
Wasserschlangen I
, 1904
Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907
Der Kuss, 1907
Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912
Die Jungfrau, 1913
The Beethoven friezes in the Vienna Secession Gallery

Useful links

Klimt (2006), a film by Raoul Ruiz with John Malkovich in the role of the painter.

Gustav Klimt 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Prints and posters

Prints and posters The Kiss (detail)

> Greeting cards

Greeting cards The Kiss (detail)

Nationality(ies) : Austrian
Born on : 14/07/1862
Died on : 06/02/1918
Profile : Painter
Artistic current(s) : Art nouveau, Classical, Symbolism
Theme(s) covered : Love - friendship, Architecture, Portraits - Characters