One of Austria’s most famous artists, died 100 years ago

Gustav Klimt was one of the most prominent figures of the Viennese Art Nouveau, and he is still well known in our days. In his works, he mainly displayed the traditions of Japanese painting. His art was characterized by gilded and vibrant works with almost psychedelic effects. Klimt was the painter of emerging bourgeois and this is best proven by his female portraits. The artist would most often appear with haughty hair in blue painter coat and he spoke with a dialect. Klimt never married, but he fathered 14 children in total from several women. Gustav Klimt’s oeuvre made him become the most famous Austrian painter in the world. Collectors pay millions of dollars for his work in our days.

Gustav Klimt was born on July 14, 1862 in a family of seven children in Baumgarten, in a village near Vienna. Today this village belongs to Vienna. His father was a Czech-born goldsmith. Klimt started to attend the Austrian Imperial Royal School of Applied Arts in 1876, at the age of 14. Shortly afterwards his younger brothers all attended the same school. A year later, when his brother, Ernst went to the same school they started to paint portraits together based on photographs. Klimt’s first major works were created together with his younger brother, Ernst and Franz Matsch and together they founded the artists’ association “Künstler-Compagnie” (Künstlerkompagnie). This group was mainly concerned with decorating buildings and in the year of their foundation, they were already involved I preparing the festive decoration for the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph’s accession to throne. The outstanding work of the group, which brought them a great reputation, were the ceiling frescoes of the Carlsbad Bathhouse and the decoration of the Sturany Palace in Vienna. Klimt’s outstanding talent already shows in his early Fable and Idyll works, but in line with his school education, he yet follows the Academy style. Later, in 1886, Klimt’s artistic expression was quite different from his fellows, he moves away from the Academy style, thus the three artists begin to work independently. In 1888, he receives his first prize, a Golden Cross of Honor from Emperor Francz Joseph. In 1890, he is entrusted to paint frescoes for the grand staircase of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and he receives the Emperor’s Prize for his work Auditorium of the Old Burgtheater.

Klimt becomes depressed after his father and brother Ernst both died and the tragedies heavily affect his art as well. From this time, it is his responsibility to financially support the family. In 1890 Klimt met Emilie Flöge who was to be his companion and muse for decades. When they first met Emilie was only 18 years old. Her younger sister, Helene married Gustav’s brother, Ernst Klimt, however, the man died a year after the wedding. Gustav became the patron of his brother’s widow and he was a frequent guest at the cottage of Emilie’s family at Lake Attersee.

Gustav és Emilie

Emilie was an extremely talented woman who started her career as an ordinary seamstress and became a fashion dictator in Austria. She was well ahead of her age both as an artist and businesswoman. She was the one who liberated women from their corsets even before Coco Chanel and had serious business negotiations with men. Emilie was not satisfied with the clothes designed for the conservative Viennese audience. After working hours, she created extraordinary clothing which the majority of the inhabitants of the Austrian capital would probably never have worn. The extravagant formulations were only understood by few, but Gustav Klimt’s interest was arisen. Emilie and Gustav became very close to each other and became inseparable companions. Klimt’s iconic work, The Kiss, depicts the two of them. Emilie joined Klimt’s circle of friends, and many of them became her clients. Just like Klimt, Emilie was driven by the desire to create something great and revolutionary. Emilie’s style was characterized by dresses which were worn without a corset and hung loosely from the shoulders with wide sleeves. They were avant-garde dresses that were similar to Klimt’s bohemian and extreme world. Even though later Klimt had relationships with other women as well, Emilie was his good companion until the end of his life.

The painter of bourgeoise

Gustav Klimt is the painter of emerging bourgeoise, whose lady members have been captured in portraits in all his creative periods. The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is among the most expensive paintings in the world. Besides his portraits, graphics played an important part in Klimt’s entire life which is well proven by numbers – 3000 graphics compared to 250 paintings. With their outstanding quality, his graphics are among the greatest art legends. The famous painter created his works with a psychedelic effect, expanding his consciousness and investigating the deeper layers of reality. The magnificent golden colors, besides the traditions of Japanese painting, go back to Klimt’s childhood, as her father was a goldsmith. To further develop and make this technique perfect, Klimt traveled to Venice and traveled to Ravenna, where he could study the work of Byzantine artists more thoroughly. His characteristic female portraits made him become one of the most outstanding painters of the age. However, the gorgeous dresses on the ladies are not the motifs of Klimt’s fantasy, as the subjects of his portraits were not fictitious people either. Besides the portraits of women and young women, Klimt captured all forms of femininity including pregnancy, elderly women as well as the loss of bodily beauty. Along with his age, Klimt believed that femininity and nature were closely related. Birth and fate were represented in his pictures of women. as well as the dark side of human existence and the threat of death and disappearance. In his later work, the “golden era” was replaced by the decorative expressionist style and he turned to the colors.

After three decades of continuous work, success and many obstacles, Klimt had a stroke at the age of 56 and died on February 6, 1918 in Vienna. His intellectual mates, Otto Wagner, Kolo Moser and Egon Schiele, died in the same year and the very same year led to the fall of the Monarchy as well.