Gustav Klimt: A life & legacy in Vienna

Austria’s renowned painter and Jugendstil representative

Gustav Klimt is considered one of the most famous Austrian painters throughout history – and one of the most significant representatives of the Viennese Jugendstil movement. He was born in Baumgarten in Vienna in 1862 and was the second child of seven born to a gold engraver.

The moving life of Gustav Klimt

Klimt began his artistic life at the age of 14, at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts at the “k.k. Österreichischen Museums für Kunst und Industrie” (today: University of Applied Arts). At the beginning of his 20s, he co-founded the Company of Artists with his colleagues Franz Matsch and brother Ernst Klimt: They found immediate success as theatre decorators both at home and abroad. They also designed the staircases and rooms of the Burgtheater in Vienna.

Beethovenfries Gemälde von Gustav Klimt
Beethoven Frieze, painting by Gustav Klimt, © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Trumler

Imperial Award

In 1888, Emperor Franz Joseph I awarded the Company of Artists with the Golden Cross of Merit. Gustav also received the Imperial Prize – for his design of the audience room in the Burgtheater. Following this, he was given large orders, whereby his brother Bruder Ernst died in 1892. In 1894, Gustav and his colleague Matsch were commissioned with the famous Faculty Paintings: the ceiling paintings in the University of Vienna’s ceremonial hall. From 1900 onwards, these paintings would garner both great recognition and criticism.

Finally in 1897, Gustav Klimt founded the union of visual artists that was the Vienna Secession – and was their first president. Today, the Vienna Secession is one of the oldest independent exhibition houses dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. In 1905, he left the Secession. In 1908, the world-famous Klimt painting “Kiss” was displayed at the opening of the Vienna Art Show – and was immediately snapped up by the Imperial Ministry for the Belvedere. In 1918, the great painter succumbed to a heart attack.

Gustav Klimt at the Belvedere

Visitors will find the world’s largest Klimt collection in Vienna’s Belvedere. The 24 works include “Kiss” and “Judith”, as well as important portraits, landscape images, and allegorical illustrations, or even a sketch book. The masterpieces can be permanently viewed as part of the collection in the Upper Belvedere.

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Mehr Informationen

The work of Gustav Klimt and many other artists can now also be viewed online and admired in digital form. This opportunity is offered by Google Arts & Culture and we have also put together a few recommendations for you.