Klimt, Gustav

(1862–1918)
   Like several important Viennese architects, artists, and designers of his time, Klimt received his initial training from his father, who was an engraver. His formal schooling (1876–1883) was in applied art and handicraft at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbe), founded in 1868 to prepare students for work in traditional design and manufacture. From 1879, together with his brother Ernst (1864–1892) and a partner, Franz Matsch (1861–1942), Klimt completed several major commissions throughout the Habsburg Empire and abroad. During the period 1886–1888, he and Ernst did the decorative ceiling of the grand stairway of the new Vienna Burgtheater. Klimt’s canvas of the old edifice just prior to its demotion won him the Emperor’s Prize in 1890 and transformed him into one of the preeminent painters of Central Europe. In 1891, he did the main lobby of the Museum of Art (Kunsthistorisches Museum). Klimt also did paintings in theaters in Bucharest, Rijeka (Fiume), and Karlsbad.
   In 1894, Klimt accepted the charge to do the ceiling painting for the auditorium of the newly built University of Vienna on the Ringstrasse. It was during this time that he became a leading advocate of the Austrian Secession movement, which called for a radical departure from the historically oriented classicism then prevalent in Viennese artistic circles. Klimt’s own style and the content of his work changed dramatically, becoming far more symbolic than representational, more subjective in the use of color and surface, more psychological than pictorial.
   The Secession itself, and Klimt along with it, did not lack for wealthy patrons. Nevertheless, not all of the artist’s patrons and not all his clients were taken with the changes in his work, especially the explicitly sensual side of it that expressed Klimt’s own erotic compulsions. Though he never married, he fathered a string of illegitimate children.
   In 1905, Klimt had to abandon the university commission under heavy criticism from its faculty, whose vision of the triumph of reason over obscurantism—the general subject of the work—was a good deal more sober than the painter’s rendering, which probed deeply into the subconscious for its imagery. Klimt also worked closely with the Wiener Werkstätte in its early years, designing the marble frieze of Josef Hoffmann’s Palais Stoclet in Brussels.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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