The Artworks and Contributions of Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt was an influential artist, poet, and designer. He helped to pioneer the art movement of Vienna's secession through his unique focus on decorative work.

Gustav Klimt was an early twentieth-century artist and founder of the Vienna Secession. He is most famous for his paintings. However, he also produced some notable sculptures and wrote many poems. Through all of these artistic media, one can see a common deep-rooted theme throughout his art: the control and power of women.

Gustav Klimt's Hygieia (1907) famous painting. Original from Wikimedia Commons. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Early Life of Gustav Klimt

On July 14, 1862, Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten as the first child of Anna and Ernst Klimt. His family consisted of his sister, Berta, and two more siblings that died shortly after birth. He began drawing as a small child; however, some debate remains whether he had any formal artistic training.

Gustav Klimt, himself, stated that he took some lessons in 1876; however, critics debate that the accounts of his training are not entirely accurate. His father was very successful working in the mining business and owned a construction company for bridges and railroads. He enjoyed financial success, which allowed Gustav to pursue an education in fine arts.

Gustav Klimt attended the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in 1876, where he studied architecture, painting, and drawing. He left school two years later due to the death of his father. However, before leaving school, he produced several well-known paintings, including Birdman (1891). Once he left school, he began to focus on his artwork. There are over one hundred known Klimt's paintings.

Who influenced Gustav Klimt?

Art Nouveau and Symbolist were the primary influences on Klimt. He was also influenced by Egon Schiele, a fellow Austrian artist. However, Gustav Klimt's work was distinct from both of these artists; he designed his works to be purposely decorative with no apparent meaning behind them. His paintings often featured nude women, and these women are typically shown in sensual poses. In addition, many of his paintings include gold which the Byzantine Empire inspired.

Why are Gustav Klimt's paintings famous?

His paintings, for the most part, are very famous. His work The Kiss is one of the most iconic paintings in all of art history. As a leading figure in the Vienna secession, his work drew attention to Austrian Art.

Klimt wrote several poems throughout his life; however, they were not published until long after his death. These poems focused on themes of love, sensuality, and the female form. He also wrote many letters, some of which have been published in anthologies.

What did Gustav Klimt contribute?

Gustav Klimt was the leading figure in the Vienna secession movement that started in about 1897. The movement strove to create works that were distinct from the mainstream art style of the time. Klimt did this through a unique focus on decorative work. His paintings included gold and gemstones, which later inspired other artists to use these elements in their work. One of his most notable contributions was The Kiss which has been recreated countless times worldwide.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by Gustav Klimt that was completed in 1907. It is currently located at the Neue Galerie in New York City. The picture depicts Adele Bloch Bauer, the wife of an industrialist and patron, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer.

Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) famous painting. Original from Wikimedia Commons. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Adele's portrait has been widely praised for its use of gold which Klimt had become famous for utilizing. The portrait is one of many painted by Klimt that contains his love interest Flora, who appears in the background of the painting.

The Kiss

The Kiss was a painting completed in oil on canvas in about 1912 by Gustav Klimt. It is widely considered one of the most famous paintings in history and depicts a couple embracing one another. The painting was a symbol of love and set the tone for Klimt's later works.

Gustav Klimt's The Kiss (1907–1908) famous painting. Original from Wikimedia Commons. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

In The Kiss, both people are nude, but neither one is male nor female. The two individuals appear to be similar in age and race, which suggests that Klimt did not wish to represent a particular person or couple in this piece. In addition, Klimt used gold leaf as a decorative element to represent wealth and the pursuit of happiness. The painting is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze

The Tree of Life is a mosaic created by Gustav Klimt and his students for the Palais Stoclet in Brussels, Belgium. The artwork was completed between 1905 and 1911.

The Tree of Life is made up of three circular mosaics that each contain different images. These images include birds, plants, and more people. The images also have many geometric patterns that surround the central images.

There are eleven mosaics in The Tree of Life which together measure more than one hundred and thirty feet long. The artwork symbolized the evolution of life on Earth as well as representing a new beginning for humanity.

Judith and the Head of Holofernes

Judith and the Head of Holofernes is a painting completed by Klimt that was finished in 1915. The artwork appears to depict Judith holding up the severed head of General Holofernes, an enemy of Israel. However, this interpretation has been hotly debated because no one is certain what the complete painting looks like.

Gustav Klimt's Judith and the Head of Holofernes (1901) famous painting. Original from Wikimedia Commons. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

The painting was at the center of a lawsuit over its ownership in 2012 after a woman claimed that her aunt had been forced to give up the artwork when she fled from Austria in 1938. A sworn affidavit supports the claim from a niece who also said that her aunt had believed that Nazis were going to destroy the painting.

The painting was confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and then given to an Austrian gallery in 1958, where it has remained ever since. The piece remains the subject of debate as many different stories about its origin continue to circulate among scholars.


Danaë is a painting completed in 1918 by Klimt which depicts the mythological figure of Danaë. Along with Giorgio de Chirico, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and others, Klimt was part of Die Brücke group which disbanded in 1913.

The painting shows Danaë giving birth to her son Perseus, who Zeus had fathered. A shower of gold is shown descending on Danaë and the bed she is lying in, representing divine impregnation. The painting was featured in a famous scene from the Coen brothers' film Barton Fink where it hangs prominently on the wall of hotel manager Chet.

Beethoven Frieze

Klimt's final work was the Beethoven Frieze, which was completed in 1915. The Frieze contains images of both Ludwig van Beethoven and Athena to represent creativity and wisdom, respectively.

The Frieze measures more than one hundred feet long, but only three panels are currently on display at the Secession Building since the rest of the work was cut into many pieces over the years.

Death and Life

Death and Life was a pair of paintings that were completed in 1912. The paintings feature two women, one facing death while the other is being born. In both images, ferns surround the figures, which represent the cycle of life and death.

In 2014, Death and Life appeared in an advertisement for Chanel's No5 fragrance. The paintings were shown at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, which is one of the largest modern art museums in Europe.

What's the story behind "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt?

"The Kiss" is one of Gustav Klimt's most famous paintings. The painting depicts a couple embracing, however it is unclear whether they are man and woman or two women. There has been much speculation about this piece, but no conclusive proof has ever come to light that could prove why the artist originally painted this particular scene.

What does Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" mean?

There are several theories as to what the painting might have meant. The first popular theory was that it depicted a lesbian couple. This idea sparked controversy over the appropriateness of displaying such a painting in public. However, this theory has since been debunked by many critics. Another common explanation of the painting is that it depicts a platonic relationship between siblings. However, this argument has also been criticized due to the sensual nature of both subjects in the painting.

A third possible explanation of the painting suggests that it represents two sisters who are very close to one another. This theory is supported by several letters written by Klimt in his journals.


Gustav Klimt was an influential artist, poet, and designer. He helped to pioneer the art movement of Vienna's secession through his unique focus on decorative work.

Gustav Klimt's The Virgin (1913) famous painting. Original from Wikimedia Commons. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

His paintings are widely famous due to their sensual subjects and incorporation of gold elements. One of his most famous works is "The Kiss," which has been recreated numerous times worldwide.