Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918) was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects, many of which are on display in the Vienna Secession gallery. Klimt's primary subject was the female body,and his works are marked by a frank eroticism.
Gustav Klimt was born as the son of a gold and silver engraver in a suburb of Vienna. He had a formal art training at the Vienna School of Decorative Arts. In 1882, Klimt opened a studio of his own with his brother Ernst and Franz Matsch, a fellow student. They specialized on executing mural paintings. They were quite successful from the beginning and received commissions from theaters, museums and other public and semi-public institutions.
In 1897 Gustav Klimt founded with other artists the Vienna Secession and became its first president. By that time Klimt had developed his own and characteristic style, which should became the trademark of the movement. Like impressionism, also art nouveau was an international revolt against the traditional academic art style.
Gustav Klimt's style is highly ornamental. The Art Nouveau movement favored organic lines and contours. Klimt used a lot of gold and silver colors in his art work - certainly an heritage from his father's profession as a gold and silver engraver.
Klimt's works of art were a scandal at his time because of the display of nudity and the subtle sexuality and eroticism. His best know painting The Kiss, was first exhibited in 1908. As everything coming out of Klimt's hands, it was highly controversial and admired at the same time.
The artist created few paintings on traditional canvas. He saw himself more as a mural painter and decorative artist. He designed posters and worked as an illustrator for magazines - best known Ver Sacrum (The Rite of Spring). Ver Sacrum was more than a magazine. It was a building where artists could exhibit their works and publish their ideas in the magazine. Ver Sacrum was published from 1898 to 1903.
From 1900 to 1903 Gustav Klimt worked on commissions by the Vienna University for a series of ceiling murals. For his mural works Klimt used a wide variety of media - metal, glass and ceramics.
The Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph II disliked Klimt's art work and the Secessionists deeply. His drivers had orders not to pass any buildings showing Secessionist art.
In 1905 Gustav Klimt left the Vienna Secession after quarrels and disagreements with another member, Josef Hofmann. Klimt continued his path. He went into design works for fashion and jewelry. His understanding of art as something that should not be confined to art academies, studios and canvases was similar to Alphonse Mucha's activities.
In 1911 his painting Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome. In 1915 his mother Anna died. Klimt died three years later in Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia. He was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. Numerous paintings were left unfinished.