Klimt: The Artist

The works of Gustav Klimt were rejected by his people and burned by Nazis. Read here to read of his life, and how it beautified his works.

Gustav Klimt's mysterious, opulent paintings are recognized in Europe as exquisite exercises in decoration and form. He is lauded as one of the forefathers of modern art. Yet his works were uneasily accepted in his day, because of their almost mannequin-like figures and sexual themes. What was it in his life that made his create such brooding, elegant works?

The Austrian painter Gustav Klimt lived from 1862 to 1918. His works were both the toast and the scandal of Vienna, in his day. However, his upbringing was fairly mild. His father was a jeweller, and it was he who inspired Klimt to so frequently add pounded sheaths of gold into his paintings. For age fourteen to twenty, the young Klimt studied at the University of Plastic Arts in Vienna, Austria. After his graduation, most of his commissions were ornamental pieces for wealthy homes. From this varied experience one can see his style develop: figures with pale, fixed expressions, Baroque opulence and gold inlay, and elegant, exquisite hints of sexual overtone.

Klimt moved into politics shortly after. In 1897 he became the president of the first Viennese Secession. A trip through Vienna, however, let him discover certain Italian painting traits, and Byzantine mosaics that entranced him. In 1912, he was no longer the President of the Secession; he was President of the Austrian National Union of Artists. Klimt was first given the support of the state, then eyed with unease. His obsession with women led to involvement with many prostitutes, who later often turned up in his paintings. Women were seen as tormentors and tormented in his work, and he often focuses on the mythical Garden of Eve. The patronage of the Viennese state was taken away from him after a period of time, because statesmen, Catholics and nobility alike rejected his open sexuality on canvas. He was restricted to creating allegorical panels for the middle-class who wished to enter the luxurious world so often portrayed in Vienna at the time. From this work and his obsessions with sexuality and the opulence of his day, Klimt gradually became a master of portraying death and life, and cycles of existence.

Although Klimt's technique was no more than the Baroque and classical, his works bring his demons to the face of the viewer. His obsession with women led to ornamented paintings with female figures swimming or pushing their way to the surface. Prophets, mythological creatures and Biblical legends are combined in a fresco-like fashion. His works were burnt, protested and many people refused to exhibit them. Today, he is rapidly gaining a name as one of the most interesting and beautiful painters of Europe. His works are especially popular in the United States.

One of Klimt's most famous works is the Beethovenfrieze, a painting on the wall of the Viennese Secession. It depicts the rise and fall of Adam and Eve, and the cyclical aspect of the Bible story set to the music of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Each panel of the secession represents the four movements of Beethoven's piece. Other famous works of his include Love, The Kiss, Water Serpents, and Philosophy.

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