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Gustav Klimt: 1862 - 1918

The son of a Bohemian engraver, Gustav Klimt was born on July 14, 1862, in Baumgarten near Vienna. he attended the Vienna Avademy between the ages of 14 and 22, then worked in collaboration with his brother Ernst and the painter Matsch on decorations for the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum and theaters in Vienna, Fiume and, in Czechoslovakia, Karlsbad and Reichenberg. The death of Ernst in 1892 brought the partnership to an end and left Klimt incapable of painting for almost six years.


When he took up his brush again in 1897, his style had completely altered. From 1890 onward he had had the opportunity to see Impressionist, Neo-Impressionist, Pointillist, and Symbolist pictures at exhibitions in Vienna. These, and his contact with works of the English Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the American James McNeill Whistler, the Dutchman Jan Toorop, and German "Jugendstil," provided Klimt with the stimulus he needed to develop a specifically Austrian form of Art Nouveau. When the Vienna Sezession was founded in 1897 to promote this new style, Klimt was the first president. By contributing articles and drawings to the journal "Ver Sacrum" (Sacred Spring), which was founded for the same purpose, he also brought Art Nouveau to Austrian book illustrations.

The problems that preoccupied him, however, were still those connected with interior decoration. The three ceiling decorations commissioned from him for the university of Vienna, 1900-3, showed how Art Nouveau could be adapted to the demands of monumental painting. When the authorities refused to erect them, Klimt himself bought them back. In the frieze of the same period, intended as free interpretation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and exhibited at the Sezession, the slender, expressive figures echo paintings by the Pre-Raphaelites and by Edvard Munch.

In 1905 Klimt left the Sezession. from 1905 to 1908 he collaborated on a mural in mosaic and enamel on marble for the dinning room of the Stoclet Palace in Brussels. The various media employed in this mural included tempera and gold and silver leaf. Klimt was making extensive use of spiral forms at this time, and arranging his figures in such a way that the spaces between them became as important as the figures themselves. In 1908 he was awarded a gold medal in Rome, and started the Klimt Group. At about this time he began to intensify his colors and his designs, building up tension by presenting the contrast between flat and plastic forms.

Two years later a Klimt retrospective exhibition was held at the Venice Biennale. In 1917 Klimt was made an honorary member of the Vienna and Munich Academies. The following year, on February 6, he died in Vienna, having paved a way for modern Austrian art.

Additional Exhibits for Gustave Klimt
The Making of a Masterpiece: Judith

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