top of page

 Diana Billings Art Blog


Gustav Klimt is an artist we all know well by his paintings, Judith and The Kiss. But most of us now little else about him. I have a little information about his short but prolific artist life.

I myself love his artwork which is why I decided to write about him. I love learning about artists from the past and recent.

Gustav was born in Baumgarten, Austria on July 14, 1862. He was the second child of seven. Gustav came from an artistic family, one brother, Georg, was a goldsmith like his father and the other, Ernst, was also an artist.

At 14 years old (1876) Gustav and Ernst were sent to study at The School of Applied Arts in Vienna. There he studied for 7 years and excelled at painting and drawing, learning oil painting and the techniques of mosaics and frescoes. At 17 Klimt was requested to help plan the pageant for the Silver Wedding Anniversary for Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife. This gave him some recognition along with his brother and friend Franz Matsch. This prompted the three young artists to set up the “Artist Company”, where they were commissioned to decorate the homes and estates of the wealthy living in Vienna. These commissions led to an opportunity at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Gustav was employed to paint the staircase using the frescoe technique, which is a stunningly beautiful place. Klimt won the Kaiser Prize for his work at the museum. The artwork took several years to complete at the museum.

The next commission was to paint three frescoes for the University of Vienna. These frescoes were on the ceiling and were to represent Medicine, Philosophy and Jurisprudence. Known as the Faculty Paintings, Klimt's work was not well received. He had wide criticism, the artwork was though to be considered obscene and pornographic. Later during World War II the Nazis would destroy these three pieces of artwork along with others. Fortunately there are photographs of these frescoes.

By 1897 Gustav’s brother Ernst and father had died and Gustav became the sole supporter for two families. This is when he co-founded the Vienna Secession, another artist society. His work was still controversial and at his first and second exhibitions he work still was not well received. Gustav was commissioned to paint a portrait for the socialite Sonja Knips. This painting opened the door for him to paint other portraits of women, thus pushing his art career forward. Now he had recognition and was in demand with the wealthy and elite.

In 1900 Klimt produced his first landscapes, brightly coloured, full of life and detail. These painting showed his genuine love for nature and the landscapes proved to be very popular.

Around this time Gustav met his life long companion Emilie Floge. He painted her portrait in 1902. Froge was a fashion designer and had a shop in Vienna which was well respected. Gustav and Emilie collaborated on clothing design for her business. Floge and Klimt never married but were considered a couple for about 20 years. Klimt was known to be a womanizer and is said to have fathered 14 children with some of the these women.

Klimt went on to deign a frieze for the Palas Stoclet in 1904, now the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK). In 1906, The Association of Austrian Artists was formed. Klimt would eventually

become president of the association in1912.

The year 1907 is when Klimt’s “gold period” started with the portrait of Fritza Riedler. Klimt produced a good number of paintings during the period including “The Kiss” and the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. This portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is now one of the most expensive paintings in the world. This painting took 3 years to complete. By this time Klimt was making a good and comfortable living. His work was in great demand during this time.

Klimt moved to his final studio in 1910 and at this time he won first price at The International Exhibition of Art in Rome. In his studio he spent his time painting and wearing a blue monk-like robe most of the time. He had a love for cats and had many, to the point that there was a smell.

Gustav Klimt’s artwork changed the face of art in Vienna, which had been formal and conservative up until this time. Klimt’s work is considered part of the Art Nuevo movement.

Gustav Klimt brought to life joy, love and beauty. I think he also had a great love of women.

Klimt died in February 6th, 1918 at 45 years old after suffering a stroke a month before and then catching pneumonia.

One can only imagine the great creative artwork he would have produced if he had lived a longer life. His last studio is now a memorial to him.

I find his work breath taking and inspiring.


Sources: YouTube - Art History School Chanel, Gustav Klimt, Life of an Artist

Klimt, The Great Artist Collection

Published by Instinctive Produce Development 2013

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page