Biography: Gustav Klimt
He is renowned as one of the twentieth century's best decorative painters and the creator of one of the century's most essential pieces of sexual art.
Gustav Klimt, an Austrian painter, had numerous eccentricities. Friederika Maria Beer-Monti, a supporter of Klimt's, once came to his studio to have her picture painted while wearing a dazzling polecat jacket fashioned by Klimt's Wiener Werkstätte associates. On the other hand, Klimt made her turn it inside out to display the crimson silk inside, and that's how he painted her. But Klimt, Vienna's most famous artist then, had the prestige to do so.
He is renowned as one of the twentieth century's best decorative painters and the creator of one of the century's most essential pieces of sexual art. Initially successful in his academic pursuits for architectural assignments, his interaction with more recent tendencies in European art inspired him to establish his own extremely unique, varied, and often bizarre style.
As co-founder and first president of the Vienna Secession, Klimt also assured the movement's widespread influence. Klimt was never one to solicit controversy, but the contentious subject matter of his work in a typically conservative creative center hampered his career. Despite his extraordinary secrecy regarding his personal life, Klimt remained romantically connected to multiple mistresses, with whom he is reported to have fathered fourteen children. (The Art Story, n.d.)
Gustav Klimt was the second son of seven children reared in the tiny district of Baumgarten, southwest of Vienna, to Ernst Klimt, a gold engraver from Bohemia, and Anna Finster, an ambitious but failed musical artist. The Klimts were destitute because employment was limited in the early Habsburg Empire, particularly for minority ethnic groups, owing mainly to the 1873 stock market disaster. Between 1862 and 1884, the Klimts often relocated, residing at no less than five different places, constantly searching for less expensive living quarters.
In addition to financial problems, the family faced personal sorrow. Gustav Klimt's younger sibling, Anna, died at age five in 1874 after a protracted illness. Soon after, his sister Klara experienced a mental collapse due to religious zeal. Gustav Klimt and his two brothers, Ernst and Georg, showed considerable creative talent at a young age. On the other hand, Gustav was picked out by his teachers as an extraordinary draftsman while in secondary school. A relative pushed him to take the admission test at the Kunstgewerbeschule, the Viennese School of Arts and Crafts, in October 1876, when he was fourteen, and he passed with distinction.
He subsequently said that he hoped to become a drawing master and teach at a Burgerschule, the 19th-century Viennese equivalent of a primary public secondary school he attended. Klimt started his official training in Vienna during the tremendous upheaval in the city. The relics of the ancient medieval defense walls that ringed the core portion of the town were destroyed in 1858, leaving a vast circular expanse that was reconstructed as a series of broad boulevards known as the Ringstrasse ("ring street").
Over the following thirty years, the Ringstrasse was flanked by trees and big bourgeois apartment complexes, as well as numerous new structures housing different civic and imperial government organizations such as theaters, art museums, the University of Vienna, and the Austrian Parliament building. Along with the newly built municipal railway, the introduction of electric street lighting, and city engineers rerouting the Danube River to minimize floods, Vienna was entering a Golden Age of industry, research, and science, propelled by contemporary advances in these sectors. One thing Vienna lacked, however, was a revolutionary attitude toward the arts. (The Art Story, n.d.)
By the end of 1892, both Gustav's father, Ernst Klimt, and his younger brother Ernst had died, the latter unexpectedly from pericarditis. These tragedies deeply saddened Gustav since he was now financially responsible for his mother, sisters, brother's wife, and young daughter.
His brother Ernst's wife, Helene Flöge, and her middle-class family had residences in both the city and the country, and Klimt became a regular visitor. Klimt quickly developed a strong connection with Helene's sister, Emilie Flöge, which would last the rest of his life and serve as the inspiration for one of his most renowned portraits. Klimt's output reduced after the deaths of his brother and father. The artist also started to challenge the traditions of academic painting, which caused a schism between Klimt and his long-term collaborator Matsch.
Matsch was contacted by the Artistic Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Education in 1893 for a commission to adorn the ceiling of the newly erected Great Hall of the University of Vienna. Klimt ultimately joined the project (whether at Matsch's or the Ministry's invitation), but it would be their last cooperation. Klimt was commissioned to create three big ceiling paintings for the university's Great Hall: Philosophy (1897-98), Medicine (1900-01), and Jurisprudence (1900-01). (1899-1907). To the astonishment of his commissioners, Klimt selected a highly elaborate symbolism that is difficult to understand for these works, signaling a dramatic shift in his approach toward painting and art in general.
Klimt's University paintings sparked heated debate, partly due to the nudity of some of the figures in Medicine and partly to claims that the subject matter was ambiguous. The University paintings were never erected, and Klimt decided never to accept another public commission following the dispute. (The Art Story, n.d.)
Klimt was a founder and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) and the group's journal, Ver Sacrum, in 1897. ("Sacred Spring"). He remained a member of the Secession until 1908. The group aimed to organize exhibits for unusual young artists, bring the works of the most significant international artists to Vienna and print its magazine to highlight members' work. The organization had no manifesto and did not seek to promote a particular style—Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government-backed them up and granted them a lease on public property to build an exhibition hall. Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of fair causes, knowledge, and the arts was the group's emblem, and Klimt painted his radical rendition of her in 1898.(Gustav Klimt - Wikipedia, 2021)
Klimt's 'Golden Phase' was characterized by the excellent critical response and commercial prosperity. During this time, he used gold leaves in several of his works. Klimt had previously employed gold in his Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), but the portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907-08) are the pieces most often associated with this time.
Klimt did not travel much, but excursions to Venice and Ravenna, both famed for their exquisite mosaics, most certainly influenced his gold technique and Byzantine iconography. In 1904 he worked with other painters on the opulent Palais Stoclet, the residence of a wealthy Belgian entrepreneur. Klimt's contributions to the dining room, including Fulfillment and Expectation, were among his best decorative works.
Klimt painted The Three Ages of Woman in 1905, portraying the life cycle. On the occasion of Margarete Wittgenstein's marriage, he painted a picture of her sister, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Klimt then produced five paintings of women dressed in fur between 1907 and 1909. Many images of Flöge modeling outfits made show his evident love of costume.
Klimt wore sandals and a large robe with no underpants when working and relaxing at home. His essential existence was pretty secluded, dedicated to his work, family, and nothing else other than the Secessionist Movement, from which he and many of his contemporaries ultimately departed. Gustav eschewed café culture and seldom interacted with other artists. Klimt's celebrity typically brought visitors to his door, and he could afford to be picky. His painting approach was meticulous and tedious at times, and Klimt needed his models to sit for long periods. Despite being sexually active, he kept his relations private and avoided personal embarrassment.
Klimt wrote very little about his ideas or methodology. He maintained no notebook and primarily sent postcards to Flöge. In a rare piece of writing known "In his essay "Commentary on a Non-Existing Self-Portrait," he claims, "I have never drawn a self-portrait. I am less interested in painting than I am in drawing other people, particularly ladies... I'm not very unique. I am a painter who works every day from daylight to night... Anyone interested in learning more about me... should carefully examine my photographs." (Gustav Klimt - Wikipedia, 2021)
Most of his later work consists of drawings and paintings of women in varying degrees of undress or complete nudity. Klimt was a lifelong bachelor who had several relationships, sometimes with his models, and fathered 14 children along the way.
However, his most extended durable romance was with Emilie Flöge. Although the extent of their friendship is unknown, they remained in each other's company for the rest of his life, and the landscape paintings that comprise the majority of his later non-portrait works were painted during summers spent with her and her family at Attersee, a lake in Austria's Salzkammergut region.
The Vienna Secession broke into two groups in 1905, one of which centered on Klimt. The following year, he was commissioned to design the dining room ceiling of the Palais Stoclet, the Brussels house of a wealthy Belgian entrepreneur. After finishing the work in 1910, his painting "Death and Life" won first place at an international show in Rome the following year.
Klimt regarded the medal as one of his crowning accomplishments. Gustav Klimt had a stroke in January 1918 that left him largely handicapped. He was afterward hospitalized and acquired pneumonia, from which he died on February 6, 1918. He was laid to rest at Vienna's Hietzing Cemetery." (Biography, 2015)
The Art Story. (n.d.). www.theartstory.org. Retrieved July 16, 2022, from https://www.theartstory.org/artist/klimt-gustav/
Gustav Klimt - Wikipedia. (2021, May 9). en.wikipedia.org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Klimt
Biography. (2015, April 3). www.biography.com. https://www.biography.com/artist/gustav-klimt