Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

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Hygieia

Portrait of Lady Adele Block-Baur I

Gustave Klimt was an Austrian painter and illustrator born on July 14, 1862. He founded the school of painting known as the Vienna Sezzession. His works were highly intellectual, dealing with psychological issues while still being intensely erotic.

In 1883, Klimt began working with his brother as an artist-decorator. They had studied decorating together at a young age and shown remarkable abilities. A few years later, he began painting mural decorations for buildings in Vienna. Among the other important decoration projects to his credit are his Beethoven frieze and numerous illustrations for books.

Gustav Klimt’s art combines symbolism and Art Nouveau. He pained decorative allegorical scenes and also produced portraits accentuated by unnatural colors that formed his own concept of beauty.

One of Klimt’s most popular paintings is a brilliant example of his style. The Kiss captures the passion of two lovers. The painting is a swirling, rectangle speckled explosion of color. Only the faces and hands of the couple peek from the colorful, vibrant display.

The Kiss

Although Klimt began as a decorator, he moved into his own studio at age 30 to begin the easel painting that would later produce such works as mentioned. He was bothered by the art world’s embracing of naturalism, and he took steps to break free of the naturalistic constraints that he felt repressed artistic creativity.

Klimt was quoted as saying, “All art is erotic.” This assumption is evident in his paintings. Klimt’s work was more sensual than that of his peers. Because of this, he was often subjected to criticism. In fact, his work was often displayed behind a screen in an effort to shield the young from corruption.

Klimt’s work can be characterized by vivid, juxtaposition of form and colors. These were so different from abrupt styles, but his brushstrokes are in no way aimless. There is a focused pattern to the ornate decorative style, perhaps a tension between pleasure and pain. His paintings seem to have “eternal” features, not confined to a particular time period or space. Many of his paintings display a delightful blend of opposites such as the concepts of pleasure and pain or life and death.

Death and Life

The fact that Klimt drew from so many influences gives his work a very unique and elegant look. Many of his paintings incorporate gold. Women were favorite subjects for Klimt, but the fact that he painted them in a sensual way and often without clothing did not help his acceptance in a time of repression. Many of his paintings display nude women.

Landscape

Flower Garden

Tree of Life

Many of Klimt’s drawings have resurfaced in recent years. Klimt often made quick sketches as studies for his larger paintings. The majority of Klimt’s sketches are figurative drawings of women embracing or in sensual poses. Since Klimt only signed work that he sold, many of his sketches were left unsigned. Sketches that Klimt did sell were often sold to men, who bought the sketches for their own pleasure rather than for exhibition. It was extremely rare and inappropriate for men to hang drawings of nude women in their homes. Consequently, a great number of Klimt’s sketches have been well preserved. In addition to quick, study-sketches, Klimt completed a number of finished, charcoal drawings. Drawings by Klimt are extremely valuable and sought after by fine art collectors.

Klimt drawing,

“The Death of Juliet”, 1886-7

Klimt drawing, Study for

Study for “Lewdness” drawing for the Beethoven frieze, 1902

Klimt drawing, Pregnant Woman with Man” sketch, 1903-4

Pregnant Woman with Man” sketch, 1903-4

Klimt drawing,

“Allegory of Sculpture”, 1897

Klimt drawing,

“The Embrace”

Klimt drawing,

“Tragedy”, 1897

Klimt drawing, Sketch

Sketch

Klimt drawing, Study for

Study for “Three Ages of Woman”, 1905 Charcoal drawing

Klimt drawing, Sketch

Sketch

Klimt drawing,

“Embracing Couple”, pencil on paper, 1898-99

Klimt drawing,

“Nude”, 1905-6, red pencil sketch

Klimt drawing, Study for

Study for “The Maiden” 1912-13, pencil

Klimt drawing, Study for

Study for “Water Serpents II” 1904, pencil

Klimt drawing, Study for

Study for “Water Serpents I” 1904, pencil

Klimt drawing, Study for

Study for “The Dancer” pencil

Klimt died from pneumonia in 1918, shortly after World War I began, but not before he left his mark in the art world. Do you think you may own a painting or drawing by Gustav Klimt? Contact us, we are the Gustav Klimt experts.