Gustav Klimt

Austrian painter and founder of the school of painting known as the Vienna Sezession. Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) shocked early 20th century audiences with his unorthodox, subtly erotic paintings.

Born in Baumgarten, a suburb of Vienna, Klimt's interest in art was nurtured by his father, an engraver in gold and silver. The artist's formal training began at Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna. After studying at the Vienna School of Decorative Arts, Klimt in 1883 opened an independent studio specializing in the execution of mural paintings. His early work was typical of late 19th-century academic painting, as can be seen in his murals for the Vienna Burgtheater (1888) and on the staircase of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

In "The Kiss," Klimt's best known work, beautifully rendered figures float dreamlike in space, wrapped in an abstracted mosaic robe that veils graceful organic contours. The rhythmic flowing line and biomorphic form of Klimt's unparalleled paintings became a potent influence on the Art Nouveau movement. In other works he treats the human figure without shadow and heightens the lush sensuality of skin by surrounding it with areas of flat, highly ornamental, and brilliantly composed areas of decoration.
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