Klimt, Gustave



Gustave Klimt Biography

The work of this Austrian painter and illustrator founder of the school of painting known as the Vienna Sezession, embodies the high-keyed erotic, psychological, and aesthetic preoccupations of turn-of-the-century Vienna's dazzling intellectual world.

The primal forces of sexuality, regeneration, love, and death form the dominant themes of Klimt's work. His oil paintings of femmes fatales, such as Judith I (1901; Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna), personify the dark side of sexual attraction. The Kiss (1907-08; Osterreichische Galerie) celebrates the attraction of the sexes; and Hope I (1903; National Gallery, Ottawa) juxtaposes the promise of new life with the destroying force of death.

Klimt's style drew upon an enormous range of sources: classical Greek, Byzantine, Egyptian, and Minoan art; late-medieval painting and the woodcuts of Durer; photography and the symbolist art of Max Klinger; and the work of both Franz von Stuck and Fernand Khnopff. In synthesizing these diverse sources, Klimt's art achieved both individuality and extreme elegance.

Best known painting: The Kiss

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