Gustav Klimt, his Life and Work



Gustav Klimt is undoubtedly the most remarkable artist to have emerged from fin-de-siècle Vienna. His paintings constitute a sublime frontier between traditional and modern, figurative and non-figurative. His immensely erotic portraits and sexually-charged sketches, his richly patterned landscapes and mysterious allegorical compositions, are at once sensuous and refined and remain among the most recognized works of art in the world.


Portrait of Josef Pembaur
This distinctive portrait, with an exquisitely gold-painted wooden frame is a powerful demonstration of Klimt’s developing style.

Water Sprites
This picture is an important precursor of his future development with its Symbolist style and patterning.

Music I
This work is believed to be one of two studies Klimt submitted to help secure a contract with Franz Matsch for the decoration of the Palais Dumba.

Sonja Knips
Klimt's reputation with the elite and his charismatic personality had a potent effect on Vienna's beautiful young women, who paid handsomely for his portraits.

Water in Motion
Klimt's lascivious women surrender to water, the wet element, which corresponds to their own erotic nature.

Pallas Athene
Pallas Athene became the Secession's chief symbol of protection. Here Klimt's love of decoration is advanced with the use of pulsating gold.

Shuber at the Piano
This work, which experiments with Impressionism, was part of a project to refurbish a palace belonging to wealthy industrialist Nikolaus Dumba.

Nuda Veritas
This woman defies the Viennese public with her provocative and expressive nudity. Her displayed pubic hair is in itself a declaration of war on the classical idea.

Detail of Hygeia. Destroyed by the Nazis in a fire in 1945 in Schloss Immendorf.

The deliberate pose of the main subject was seen as Klimt's answer to the vicious attacks on his University paintings.

Judith with the Head of Holofernes
The features of Judith are plainly those of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the only woman he painted more than once.

Emilie Flöge
This painting, which was not to Emilie's taste, was sold to the Museum of History in Vienna in 1908. Klimt promised her to paint a second one but he never did.

The Beethoven Frieze
This painting completed the long section on the right-hand wall of the Secession building during its fourteenth exhibition.

One of several paintings Klimt made of the interior of a beech wood. There is sky but is unreachable, imprisoned behind the bars of tree trunks.

Water Snakes I
Also known as Friends I, they are clearly not serpents, sprites, or nymphs, but a half-naked lesbian couple writhing in orgasmic ecstasy.

Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein
Considered one of Klimt's best portraits because of its attention to detail and brilliant manipulation of light.

Stoclet Frieze
Expectation, the Tree of Life, Fulfilment. This is how Klimt, as well as Freud, understood the normal cycle of life.

The Ages of Woman
Klimt became absorbed with life and death after the death of his baby son, Otto, in 1902. The theme later recurs in his later painting, Death and Life.

Fritza Riedler
Klimt became absorbed with life and death after the death of his baby son, Otto, in 1902. The theme later recurs in his later painting, Death and Life.

Field of Poppies
This painting is one of Klimt's few landscapes to present a long perspective and deep horizon.

Water Snakes II
Also known as Friends II, the narcissistic world of lesbians in the water currents represent Klimt's nightmare of a universe determined exclusively by women.

Salome (Judith II)
Klimt's style was the talk of the Venice Biennale in 1910. The city even bought this second version of Judith. The painting still hangs at the Palazzo di Ca'Pesaro.

Adele Block-Bauer
Without a doubt, the greatest of Klimt's "Golden" period. The ritous ornament incorporates elements borrowed from Egyptian and Mycenaean art.

The Kiss
Closely related to sections of the Beethoven and Stoclet friezes, the most celebrated of Klimt's paintings seems to embody his belief in the transforming power of love and art.

One of Klimt's most obviously erotic paintings, in which a mythological subject is used as the pretext for a depiction of women at the moment of orgasm.

Woman with Hat and Feather Boa
The influence of Dega's Impressionist concern with the depiction of people going about their working lives is evident in this painting.

Death and Life
It is an important shift in Klimt's style. Begun at the height of his decorative period, originally had a gold background which he later painted over.

Schloss Kammer on Attersee III
Klimt's landscapes gradually go from a tapestry style to a cubist composition. They become more urban, they include architecture and unite water and vegetation.

Adele Bloch-Bauer II
The influence of Matisse, whose work Klimt saw in 1909, is superbly demonstrated here: in the strong disturbing blocks of color and busy patterning of Oriental imagery.

Avenue of Trees in the Park at Schloss Kammer Van Gogh's impact on Klimt's landscape work makes its most powerful statement here.

Mäda Primavesi
Klimt's new feminity: woman and flowers in close union. It does not evoke the kind of airless space of the earlier portraits, instead suggests vitality and movement.

The Girls
Klimt joins several figures that form a cloud by tangling themselves in a flower décor. The different figures represent varying stages, the young girl that becomes a woman.

Malcesine on Lake Garda
This is a wonderful light, expansive work unlike the usual close style of his typically intense Austrian scenes.

Friederike-Maria Beer
Friederika sometimes modelled for the Flöge sisters. Klimt asked her to wear her fur coat inside out to expose the rich ornamental lining.

Women Friends
This painting, which depicts two lesbian friends, was one of many works of art destroyed by retreating German troops in 1945.

The Dancer
In Klimt's later paintings, anatomy becomes ornament and ornament becomes anatomy.

Portrait of Johanna Staude
This portrait is one of several unfinished works found after Klimt's death.

Amalie Zuckerkandl
This unfinished portrait is of a cousin of the influential journalist and invaluable pro-Klimt critic and friend, Berta Zuckerkandl.

The Bride
One of the unfinished canvases left on one of the easels in Klimt's studio. Here it was discovered that he often painted women naked before he worked on the clothing.

Adam and Eve
Not even Klimt can get away with representing Adam and Eve without the presence of a man. However, in this painting, Adam is reduced to decoration.