A successful symbolist painter and undoubted sex addict, Gustav Klimt was a controversial figure in his lifetime. He was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, Austria in 1862. His father was a gold engraver who was unsuccessful in business, and Klimt, one of seven children, spent his early years in poverty.

From a young age Klimt’s artistic ability was evident and when he was 14 he began attending the Vienna Public Art School. His precocious early talent was recognised and he received his first commissions while still studying. By 1880 Klimt had set up ‘The Company of Artists’ with his brother Ernst who was a fellow pupil, and another school friend, Franz Matsch. His early career was spent painting conventional murals in museums and other public buildings in Vienna.

His artistic direction changed after the tragic deaths of both his father and brother Ernst in 1892. In 1893 Klimt and Matsch were commissioned to produce three paintings for the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. The paintings, Medecine, Philosophy and Jurisprudence were greatly delayed and not completed until the end of the century. When finally revealed, they were denounced as depraved and pornographic. The moral outcry resulted in the paintings never being exhibited in the Great Hall. Regrettably, all three paintings were destroyed by the retreating Nazis in 1945.

Like many artistic trail blazers, Klimt was a complex and contradictory figure in his lifetime. His work was often considered too shocking, too sexual and too deviant. Sometimes his paintings were exhibited behind screens to protect the innocent. He had a succession of scandalous affairs with society beauties, models, and whores and he fathered at least 14 illegitimate children. In contrast, is it not surprising to learn that his relationship with his constant companion of 27 years, Emile Floge, was rumoured to be non sexual?

He is most famous for his depiction of the female form and his extensive use of gold leaf in his paintings. His ‘Golden Phase’ combined these two elements superbly and brought him huge critical and popular acclaim. His most famous work, “The Kiss”, was painted in this period. Between 1907 and 1909 he painted five society women including his mistress, Adele Bloch-Bauer. The latter work sold for a record $135,000,000 in 2006 in New York. He is one of only a handful of artists whose work has fetched over $100 million at auction.

Successful during his lifetime, his fame meant he could be very selective in his clients. They came to him rather than the other way around. Long before dress down Friday, he worked wearing just sandals, a long white smock and no underwear. He died of pneumonia in his apartment in 1918.

Klimt’s work remains very much alive today. Gustav Klimt’s, The Kiss, and his other paintings are amongst the best selling reproductions of all time. To view some of Klimt’s artwork visit www.artgenius.co.uk. It’s packed with biographies of the great artists and you can also buy great value posters and prints.

Source by John A Brears

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