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Gustav Klimt

“I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for painting than I am in other people, above all women .” Born on 14th July 1862, Gustav Klimt became one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession which included painters, architects and sculptors united in a desire to explore art outside the confines of academic tradition.

Working across murals, paintings and objets d’art his most famous paintings including The Kiss, 1907-8 and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, 1907. His work was considered erotic and decorative, vastly different from the traditional art of his time.

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Gustav Klimt Book - Stunning, large-format book reproducing 130 of Klimt's most important paintings.


Klimt’s father was a struggling gold engraver, meaning that his youth was spent in relative poverty. However, at the age of 14, Klimt’s talent was recognised and he was given a full scholarship to study at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. He graduated in 1883 and opened a studio with younger brother Ernst and friend Franz Masch. The trio became the Company of Artists, painting notable commissions such as a mural at Vienna Burgtheater and the ceiling of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
In 1888, the Austo-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef I awarded them the Golden Order of Merit.

In the early 1890s Klimt met Emilie Louise Floge who was to be his companion until his death, his devotion is portrayed in numerous paintings from 1891 including The Kiss which is thought to be an image of them as lovers.
Following the deaths of both his father and brother in 1892, Klimt began to focus more on his personal style, which drew from wide influences as well as being highly symbolical.

By 1897, Klimt decided to resign from the Vienna Artists’ Association and create a new organisation – the Vienna Secession. This group supported non-traditional artists, avoiding focus on any particular style.
A number of Klimt’s pieces caused controversy and scandal due to their erotic, unsettling and dark imagery. The University of Vienna eventually stopped exhibiting his art. However, the works were far more successful outside of the university. Medicine was exhibited in Paris at the Exposition Universelle.

Klimt did not confine himself to public commissions, from the late 1890s he took annual summer holidays with the Flöge family on the shores of Attersee painting many of his landscapes there. These landscapes constitute the only genre aside from figurative painting that seriously interested Klimt, they are characterised by the same refinement of design and intricate patterning as his figurative work.

The early 1900s are considered as Klimt’s “Golden Phase”, gaining critical and financial success. In 1904 he joined with other Secession artists on the lavish Palais Stoclet, home of a wealthy Belgain industrialist. Klimt's contributions to the dining room, including both Fulfillment and Expectation, were some of his finest decorative works.
During this period he used ornamental gold leaf and the inspiration of Byzantine mosaics possibly seen in Venice and Ravenna to form works such as Judith 1901, Danae, 1907 and The Kiss, 1907-8.

Klimt considered the award he received in 1911 for his painting “Death and Life” among his greatest achievements.
In 1918, Klimt suffered from a stroke, leaving him partially paralysed. While in hospital, he contracted pneumonia and died on 6th February 1918.
His work continued to gain critical success after his death and remains sought today. In 2006, the portrait, Adele Bloch-Baumer I from 1907 was purchased for the Neue Galerie New York for $135 million.

Take a look at our range of Klimt-inspired products to mark the occasion:

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Silk/Viscose Velvet Devore Jacket inspired by Klimt's distinctive sumptuous gold swirling backgrounds




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Tapestry reproducing Gustav Klimt's painting 'Frau mit Facher' (1917)




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Brooch inspired by 'The Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze' (1909)



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