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Gustav Klimt Bio

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Gustav Klimt photo
A photo of Gustav Klimt, circa 1908, ten years
before his death by a stroke during the terrible 1918
Spanish flu (one of the worst pandemic of the History
along with the plague...

Gustav Klimt (Vienna, Austria, 14 July 1862 - Vienna, Austria, 6 February 1918) was one of the 7 sons of a gold engraver. (two of his brothers were artists as well). In order to be an engraver you must know how to draw well. So, it is not quite a surprise he became an artist himself. I imagine him as a kid looking at his father's bench...

Klimt was both a painter and a designer (he studied at a Kunstgewerbeschule, that is an "applied art" school - in a similar school you can study photography and websdesign, too, today) and he devoted much of his time to architectural decoration as well.

His first monumental and ecclectic paintings were influenced by Hans Makarts from whom he distanced himself since 1897 (the famous Vienna Secession).

hans makarts painting
No, this is not by Gustav Klimt, but by Hand Makerts whose style influenced Klimt (who later influenced Egon Schiele and Kokoschka in turn). But I think it's important to see what kind of art he was exposed to in the beginning...(note, I don't dislike Makerts. He was in the same wavelength of other good painter of the time such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, now "resurrected" by a personal retrospective exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France)

hans makarts painting
Another Hans Makarts' painting. Hans Makart (Salzburg, 1840- Vienna, 1884) was an Austrian painter and teacher at the Vienna Academy of Arts. I think he was an example of the main-stream art of the second half of the 19th century: allegorical and historical paintings such as this one.

Fable
Fable
Klimt, Gustav
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The Auditorium of the Old Castle Theatre, 1888
The Auditorium of the Old Castle Theatre, 1888
Klimt, Gustav
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Study of the Head of a Blind Man
Study of the Head of a Blind Man
Klimt, Gustav
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In the Middle of the Forest
In the Middle of the Forest
Klimt, Gustav
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Tired of the old school, and in the middle of a new "fashion" in art calling for a "new" way of expression, a "New Art"(Art Nouveau 1890 - 1910) he became a leading member of the Vienna Sezession (1898 - 1903), a movement exactly opposing the retorical and historical art of paintings such as Makarts' (see above).

Klimt took inspiration from the past, still. His work condenses the knowledge aquired through the years of serious drawings of Greek, Byzantine (a trip to Ravenna), Egyptian and Mnoan art. Even the old master Albrecht Dürer with his drawings and engravings (though Dürer did not cut the wood himself) were in his arsenal, too. Not to mention the rising star: photography. Max Klinger symbolist art, Franz von Stuck and Fernand Khnopff are finally often mentioned artists whose work inspired Klimt, too.

 

Tragedy, 1897
Tragedy, 1897
Klimt, Gustav
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Sonja Knips, 1898
Sonja Knips, 1898
Klimt, Gustav
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Schubert at the Piano, 1899
Schubert at the Piano, 1899
Klimt, Gustav
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Pallas Athene, 1898
Pallas Athene, 1898
Klimt, Gustav
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Water Sprites, 1899
Water Sprites, 1899
Klimt, Gustav
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When you further read about his life, you stumble upon words such "esoteric symbolism", "decorative colors", "Jugendstil" (this is the equivalent of Art Nouveau) and "linear paintings".

The Hostile Force, c.1902
The Hostile Force, c.1902
Klimt, Gustav
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That he was a kind of rebel, a "free-spirit", a "bohemian artist" is quite easy to see.

"He was often photographed in a floor-length painter's smock, probably wearing nothing underneath. Also, he was commonly seen in his studio amid models not just nude but naked, in intimate and revealing poses, often in couples and more-somes. Add in the fact that Klimt acknowledged three children out of wedlock, and posthumously faced claims of fourteen more"

(reviewer of Amazon)

Gustav Klimt Bio - a short summary

1876 - 1883: Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule

1893 - 1892: together with his brother Ernst and Franz Match they decorated theaters and building

Interior of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Figures of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt
Interior of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Figures of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt
Klimt, Gustav
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Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Depicted Figures Rep.14th Cen. Rome and Venice, 1890/91
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Idylle
Idylle
Klimt, Gustav
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Staircase with Theatre in Taormina, 1884
Staircase with Theatre in Taormina, 1884
Klimt, Gustav
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A Greek Travelling Theatre (Il Carro Di Thespis), Ceiling Fresco, 1884-1887
A Greek Travelling Theatre (Il Carro Di Thespis), Ceiling Fresco, 1884-1887
Klimt, Gustav
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1890 Emperor Price for one of his painting of the Vienna "House of the Artists"

24 Mai 1897: Vienna secession. President until 1899

Gustav Klimt - Secession
Gustav Klimt - Secession
Klimt, Gustav
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Kunstavsstellvung
Kunstavsstellvung
Klimt, Gustav
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Cover of Ver Sacrum, the Journal of the Viennese Secession, of Theseus and the Minotaur
Cover of Ver Sacrum, the Journal of the Viennese Secession, of Theseus and the Minotaur
Klimt, Gustav
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1898 - 1909: the "Golden period". use of Gold leaves

1905 increasing recognition and architectural decorations

1908 -1910: many exhibitions all over Europe

1917 Onorary memebr of the Vienna and Münich Academie

1916 Died on 6 February from a stroke probably aggravated by a pneumonia from the Spanish flu pandemic of that year.


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Source:
Dictionary of Art and Artists; the Thames and Hudson ed.
Die Grosse Bertelsman Lexikothek
wiki

 

 

 

 

    
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