From around 1900 until his death in 1918, Gustav Klimt dominated the art scene in the capital empire of Austro-Hungary.
He was born on July 14, 1962 in Baumgarten, near Vienna. Gustav Klimt was the second of seven children of a meticulous but poor engraver and carver. His brother Ernest, who could have been as talented as Gustav had he not died so young, worked with his brother until death. His brother Georg was a talented sculptor, carver and designer who made many of the frames for Gustav’s paintings. The Klimt’s were very poor, so they had frequent changes in address in search of progressively cheaper accommodation. In 1873, the situation became worse because of the economic crisis in Austria and so his father had no income for some time.
At school, Klimt’s talent was greatly appreciated, and one of his relatives suggested to his mother that he should apply to the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna at the age of fourteen. For seven years he learned, together with his brother Ernest and Franz Matsch, the most diverse mosaics to fresco. The trio was so talented their professors let them work on their own decoration projects. Klimt’s style in those days was hyper realistic, inspired by the work of Hans Makart, one of the most famous painters of the day.
There were several paintings that announced a change in Klimt’s career. The first was a work that Klimt produced for the rich industrialist Nikolaus Dumba. In 1899 he asked Makart, Matsch and Klimt to decorate three rooms in his villa. Klimt was responsible for the music room and he painted music and Shubert at the piano. Klimt, who had previously worked hard to please the public, now acknowledged no standards but his own. In 1892 Klimt and Matsch were commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and Education to decorate the great hall of the university, representing the four traditional faculties: Theology, Philosophy Jurisprudence and Medicine. Klimt presented Philosophy to the...