Gustav Klimt’s Famous Paintings

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Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt

There are around 230 paintings by Gustav Klimt that are known, of which more than 50 are landscapes. His painting style is regarded as a mixture of Symbolism and Art Nouveau. His primary painting subject was the woman’s body. Some of Gustav Klimt ‘s famous paintings are “The Kiss“, “Death and Life“, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I“, “Apple Tree I“, “The Embrace“, “Tree of Life“.

Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten near Vienna. He was the second of seven children. His father was formerly from Bohemia and during Gustav’s childhood he experienced extreme poverty. Although his father was a gold engraver, work was scarce for immigrants.

Klimt was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in 1876. He trained as an architectural painter. By 1880 he was receiving commissions along with his brother who had also trained at the same school, along with their friend Franz Matsch. He began his career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings.

When both his father and his brother Ernst died in 1892 he was required to assume financial responsibility for both his brother’s and his father’s families. These tragedies not surprisingly affected his work. He would soon move in a new direction. This was a more personal style.

Living in an age where the society in which he lived, appeared more frivolous and seeking after happiness; it would have been expected that his style would have been readily accepted. This was not to prove the case. He was in fact condemned by many for the sensuality he displayed in his work. Many of his murals were only to be seen behind screens; for fear of a backlash and to avoid corrupting the young!

The Kiss” is one of Gustav Klimt’s famous artworks, acknowledged as a masterpiece and an excellent example of symbolism. Symbolism was seen as a darker gothic side of Romanticism. It originated in France and was a 19th century movement. The use of symbols was a reaction to the realism of Impressionism. Symbolism uses imagery from dreams and mythology. They were by painters to express allegorical meaning.

Another famous painting by Gustav Klimt which received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome is “Death and Life”. Klimt displayed in this artwork, the constant tension between life and death and many of his paintings portray a timeless quality and appear to be defying fate.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” is the other famous painting from Klimt during his Golden period which was sold in 2006 at auction for a record $135 million dollars to the wealthy cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder. As in life, so even in death Gustav Klimt was causing controversy. This however was not with the artwork, but instead surrounded the sale of one of his greatest works.

The “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” was one of five paintings that had been stolen during World War II by the Nazis. The other 4 paintings were Adele Bloch Bauer II in 1912, Apple Tree I in 1912, Houses in Unterach on Attersee in 1916, and The Birch Forest in 1912. Maria Altmann, was heir to a Czech sugar cane magnate, who had acquired the collection from Gustav Klimt. Eventually the stolen paintings were traced and a court battle ensued. In 2006 Maria Altmann was able to recover the paintings which she had inherited. All five paintings were then sold for a total of $325 million dollars. Many criticised her and also the relatives who shared in the spoils from the sale. They were labelled as “greedy”.

The Austrian government and Maria Altmann herself had wanted the paintings to remain accessible to the public. Art critic Michael Kimmelman accused her of “cashing in”, and thus transforming a “story about justice and redemption after the Holocaust” into “yet another tale of the crazy, intoxicating art market.”

“Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” was completed in 1907 by Gustav Klimt. She was the only model to be painted twice by him. The other painting in which she was the model was: “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II”.

Adele’s husband Ferdinand was a wealthy industrialist. He sponsored the arts and was a supporter of the painter. His wife was the daughter of Moritz Bauer who was the director of the Vienna bank.

“Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” is oil and gold on canvas. It is a gold-flecked masterpiece. Painted with intricate details, it took Gustav Klimt three years to complete. His artwork displays his dedication to his craft as well as his maturity in the painting of his subject. Both regal and elegant and clothed in gold; this painting has been declared one of the greatest portraits of all time.

To Mr Lauder, who is now the keeper of this work; he declared “This is our Mona Lisa”. It is now on display at Neue Galerie in New York City. Sadly, Adele had died of meningitis aged 43 years. This painting had been commissioned by her husband and finally it can at last be enjoyed by the public just as Adele had hoped. “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” is a masterpiece. One of the most famous paintings by a recognized master of his craft: Gustav Klimt.

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