Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna (Austria-Hungary) in 1862. His father, Ernst Klimt the Elder, was a gold engraver and his mother, Anna Finster, an unsuccessful musician. They had seven children who tried to follow Ernst the Elder’s career. In 1880 their enterprise, ‘Company of Artists’, had enough benefits and Gustav could start an independent business as a painter, his personal objective. He painted interior murals and ceilings in public buildings, including his famous series of ‘Allegories and Emblems’.
Now, he was a personality. In 1888, Gustav Klimt received the Golden order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria rewarding his contributions to murals in the Burgtheater in Vienna and he was named honorary member of the universities of Munich and Vienna. However, good times finished soon, because the death of his father and elder brother left his large family in poverty and he had to assume all of the financial responsibility as well as his own responsibilities (during this period, he fathered at least 14 children).
Different relationships with different women, but the most important woman until the end of his life will be Emilie Flöge. Busy times, Austrian authorities wanted a cultural Vienna and he was named president of the ‘Vienna Secession’ and of the group’s periodical ‘Sacred Spring’. The objective was to provide exhibitions and support to unconventional young artists: Naturalists, Realists, Symbolists… everybody was welcome.
In this atmosphere, Gustav Klimt developed a personal style very sensual and his three paintings for the ceiling of the Great Hall in the University of Vienne: ‘Philosophy’, ‘Medicine’ and ‘Jurisprudence’ caused great reactions: positives as he managed a new symbolist language, and negatives as the allegories were called pornographic.Gustav Klimt
In 1902, Klimt finished his wonderful Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition and he started to paint landscapes on the shores of Attersee, a peculiarity in his career. In fact, he was usually fond of figures, especially feminine figures.
Now, it started his ‘Golden Phase’, characterized by the use of gold leaf (gold engraver had been his first job) and inspired in old Byzantine images and current Art Nouveau: Judith (1901), the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) or The Kiss (1907–1908).
Klimt ran a discrete life and we know little about his vision. wrote little about his vision. However, in a writing called “Commentary on a non-existent self-portrait”, he states “I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women…There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night…Who ever wants to know something about me… ought to look carefully at my pictures.”
Distant, cold, precise, sensual, Gustav Klimt saw the spirituality of humankind in sex. The sex which joints two people, the sex which brings children, the sex as the strong manifestation of our feeling. Maybe the ‘Death and Life’ was his will.
He died in 1918 due to the influenza epidemic of that year.
Today, July 14, is the anniversary of his birthday and Yareah magazine has wanted to honor him.