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Inspirational Artists - Gustav Klimt

Again I have been treated to another exceptional art book from Bibliophile, this time on the Viennese artist Gustav Klimt.The book presents all of Klimt's major works alongside authoritative art historical commentary and privileged access to the artist's archive and is a must have for any art lover.

We are all familiar with works such as 'The Kiss' and 'Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I' (also known as The Woman in Gold), but it isn't until you see the full range of his works that you truly appreciate the artist and his importance. Klimt's primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism. In addition to his figurative works, which include allegories and portraits he also produce many fine landscapes and his attention to the finest detail enabled him to master many art forms. He wasn't without controversy with some works being criticised as being pornographic and he influenced many such as the young Egon Schiele.

Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918) was born one of seven children in Baumgarten, near Vienna. His father, Ernst Klimt the Elder, was a gold engraver and all three of their sons displayed artistic talent early on. Klimt lived in poverty while attending the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts with his brothers and began his professional career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings.In 1888 Klimt received the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria for his contributions to murals painted in the Burgtheater in Vienna. He also became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna. After the death of his father and brother he changed his style and in the early 1890s Klimt met Austrian fashion designer Emilie Louise Flöge who was to be his companion until the end of his life. His painting, The Kiss (1907–08), is thought to be an image of them as lovers. During this period Klimt fathered at least fourteen children.

Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Vienna Secession in 1897 and of the group's periodical, Ver Sacrum ("Sacred Spring"). He remained with the Secession until 1908. The goals of the group were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the works of the best foreign artists to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine to showcase the work of members. The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style—Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group's symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts—of whom Klimt painted his radical version in 1898.

His Nuda Veritas (1899) where a starkly naked red-headed woman holds the mirror of truth, while above her is a quotation by Friedrich Schiller in stylised lettering, 'If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please only a few. To please many is bad.'

In 1902, Klimt finished the Beethoven Frieze , which was intended to be a celebration of the composer and featured a monumental polychrome sculpture by Max Klinger. Intended for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials. After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it was not displayed again until 1986. During this period he produced many of hislandscape works whilst on holiday at Attersee.

Klimt's 'Golden Phase' was marked by positive critical reaction and financial success. Many of his paintings from this period included gold leaf. Klimt had previously used gold in his Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), although the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907–08).

In 1904, he collaborated with other artists on the lavish Palais Stoclet, the home of a wealthy Belgian industrialist that was one of the grandest monuments of the Art Nouveau age. Klimt's contributions to the dining room, including both Fulfillment and Expectation, were some of his finest decorative works, and as he publicly stated, 'probably the ultimate stage of my development of ornament.'

In 1905, Klimt created a painted portrait of Margarete Wittgenstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein's sister, on the occasion of her marriage.[20] Then, between 1907 and 1909, Klimt painted five canvases of society women wrapped in fur. His apparent love of costume is expressed in the many photographs of Flöge modeling clothing he had designed

In 1911 his painting Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome. In 1918 Klimt died , having suffered a stroke and pneumonia due to the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic of that year.

Klimt's paintings have been some of the most expensive works recorded. In 2006, the portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, was purchased for the Neue Galerie New York reportedly for US $135 million, the highest reported price ever paid for a painting. Also in 2006, Christie's auction house announced it was handling the sale of the remaining four works by Klimt that were recovered by Maria Altmann and her co-heirs after their long legal battle against Austria. Maria Altmann's fight to regain her family's paintings has been the subject of a number of documentary films, including Adele's Wish. Her struggle also became the subject of the dramatic film the 'Woman in Gold', a movie inspired by Stealing Klimt, the documentary featuring Maria Altmann herself.The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II was sold at auction in November 2006 for $88 million, the third-highest priced piece of art at auction at the time. The Apple Tree I (ca. 1912) sold for $33 million, Birch Forest (1903) sold for $40.3 million,[31] and Houses in Unterach on Lake Atter (1916) sold for $31 million. Collectively, the five paintings netted more than $327 million and the painting Litzlberg am Attersee was auctioned for $40.4 million at Sotheby's in November 2011.

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