Gustav Klimt

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Gustav Klimt (Austrian 1862-1916) though the darling of Art Nouveau circles, MOMA, and college dorm rooms everywhere, was not always so revered. Klimt shocked his early audiences, and was forced to display his works behind screens so as not to corrupt the eyes of children. His exotic sensibility and erotic overtones became the target of extreme criticism by local critics.

Gustav Klimt: Golden Boy
Gustav Klimt was born in a suburb of Vienna, the son of a gold and silver engraver. One can suppose that his adult work, typified by individuals floating in Byzantine-patterned, shimmering metallic landscapes, was highly affected by this early childhood influence. An early interest in art was nurtured by his father, and both Gustav and his brother Ernst pursued careers as professional artists.

Klimt rejected the popular, prevailing naturalist style and founded the Vienna Secession, a group of likeminded artists who together condemned conservative painting styles. Turning away from popular contemporary imagery, Klimt found inspiration in Byzantine mosaics. His organic shapes and flowing lines became an enormous influence on the Art Nouveau movement.

Klimt is most well known for his portraits of nudes against flat backgrounds, featuring gold painted Byzantine patterns. By surrounding his subjects in ornamental detail he eliminated the concepts of space and time, and made his subjects seem eternal. With pieces like "The Kiss", Gustav Klimt explores timeless themes of love and pain, death and ecstasy.

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