Gustav Klimt is an Austrian artist born in 1862. He studied art at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts and then began working as a team with his brother Ernst and his friend Franz Matsch, calling themselves the Company of Artists. Gustav Klimt was awarded the Golden Service Cross and the Emperor's Prize while working as part of the Company and became a sought-after painter of portraits. The three artists worked together completing public commissions decorating the interiors of buildings until 1892 when Ernst died and Gustav significantly changed his artistic style. Franz began to paint mainly portraits around this time.
Gustav Klimt's style changed from a more classicist style to one of symbolism and art nouveau. He took his last public commission in 1893, but didn't complete these paintings of Medicine, Philosophy and Jurisprudence, meant to hang on the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna, until the early 1900s. Once completed, they were criticized as being too lewd and were not hung. These paintings were destroyed by the Nazis, and all that remains of them is black and white reproductions. Klimt's new style tended to be very erotic and usually featured the female form. However, he did also do a number of landscapes in the 1890s on the shores of Attersee during his family's summer holidays.
In 1897, Klimt joined the Vienna Secession, a group of artists that were against the Classicist movement. Klimt was the president of this group, which worked to help unconventional artists get their work displayed by holding exhibitions and producing a magazine showcasing the work of members of the group.
Gustav Klimt went through a phase where he used a lot of gold leaf in his paintings, starting around 1898 and ending around 1910. These paintings also often have a mosaic look to them. Other characteristics found in much of his work include phallic shapes and spirals and swirls. Klimt's primary subject was the female body,and his works are marked by a frank eroticism-nowhere is this more apparent than in his numerous drawings in pencil.
Klimt died in February 1918 after suffering from a stroke and pneumonia. His works are very popular and usually fetch high prices when they are sold. One of his works, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, a portrait he painted in 1907, sold in 2006 for the highest reported price ever paid for a painting, $135 million.
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