Monday, May 7, 2012

Artist of the Week: Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Art Nouveau movement. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects, many of which are on display in the Vienna Secession gallery. Gustav Klimt's primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism--nowhere is this more apparent than in his numerous drawings in pencil. Gustav Klimt was a controversial figure in his time. His work was constantly criticized for being too sensual and erotic, and his symbolism too deviant. Today, they stand out as the more important paintings ever to come out of Vienna.

Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, and was the second of seven children. All three sons displayed artistic talent early on. His father, Ernst Klimt, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver. Ernst married Anna Klimt, whose unrealized ambition was to be a musical performer. Klimt lived in poverty for most of his childhood, as work was scarce and the economy difficult for immigrants. In 1876, Gustav Klimt was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, where he studied until 1883, and received training as an architectural painter. Klimt revered the foremost history painter of the time, Hans Makart. Gustav Klimt readily accepted the principles of a conservative training; his early work may be classified as academic. In 1877 his brother Ernst, who, like his father, would become an engraver, also enrolled in the school. The two brothers and their friend Franz Matsch began working together; by 1880 they had received numerous commissions as a team they called the "Company of Artists", and helped their teacher in painting murals in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Gustav Klimt controversial painting "Hope I" of a naked pregnant womanGustav Klimt's style grew increasingly experimental and his murals for Vienna University, commissioned by the State in 1894, were roundly attacked by critics for their fantastical imagery and their bold, decorative style. Gustav Klimt became interested in Symbolism and Art Nouveau and he and fifteen other artists, dedicated to challenging the conservative Academy of Fine Arts. resigned from the Viennese Artist's Association and founded the Vienna Secession in 1897. Gustav Klimt was elected president and the group secured its own exhibition space and published an illustrated magazine. Influenced by European avant-garde movements represented in the annual Secession exhibitions, Gustav Klimt's mature style combined richly decorative surface patterning with complex symbolism and allegory, often with overtly erotic content. Gustav Klimt was commissioned to paint three allegorical panels representing Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna in 1894. Read More---->

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