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Gustav Klimt. Biography. Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter well known for his paintings, murals, sketches and other works of art. He was born in Baumgarten, Austria-Hungary on the 14 th July 1862, and he died in Vienna on the 6 th 1918 at aged 55.

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  • Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter well known for his paintings, murals, sketches and other works of art.
  • He was born in Baumgarten, Austria-Hungary on the 14th July 1862, and he died in Vienna on the 6th 1918 at aged 55.
  • He was the 2nd of seven children, his mother was Anna Klimt and his father was Ernst Klimt the Elder a Gold Engraver.
  • Early on in life Klimt studied architectural painting at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts until 1883. He was a strong admirer of Vienna’s foremost historic painter of the time, Hans Makart.
  • In 1880 Gustav and his brother Ernst along with their friend, Franz Matsch began working together as a team called the “Company Of Artists” and received many commissions.

When working in this group they helped their teacher paint murals in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It was after this that Klimpt began his professional career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings on the Ringstraße.

  • In 1888 Klimt received the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef 1 of Austria for his contributions to murals painted in the Burgtheater in Vienna and also became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna.
  • In 1892 Klimt’s father and brother died leaving him financially responsible for both of their families, this affected his artistic vision and he moved towards a new personal style.
  • In the 1890s Klimt met Emilie Louise Flöge and remained his companion until the end of his life. His painting The Kiss is speculated to be an image of them as lovers. She also modeled in many other of his works, during this same period Klimt had fourteen children.

Vienna Secession

  • In 1897 Klimt became a founding member and president of the Vienna Secession, he remained with them until 1908.
  • The goals of the group were to provide exhibitions for young artists, to bring the works of the best foreign artists to Vienna and to publish a magazine of the members work.
  • The group had no manifesto and did not encourage any particular art style they all coexisted together.
  • In 1894 Klimt was commissioned to create to create three paintings to decorate the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. They were completed at the turn of the century (1900s), his three paintings, Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence, were heavily criticized for their radical themes and were called pornographic. The paintings were destroyed by retreating SS forces in May 1945.
golden phase
Golden Phase
  • Klimt’s Golden Phase was marked by good critical reaction and financial success.
  • Popular paintings of his during this time are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer in 1907 and The Kiss 1907-08.
later life
Later Life
  • In 1911 his Painting Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome.
  • In 1915 his mother Anna died. Klimt died three years later in Vienna February 6th 1918 after suffering from a stroke and pneumonia during a flu epidemic, he is buried at the Hietzinger Cemetery in Vienna, he left many unfinished paintings.

The Tree Of Life Painting is made from Gold and ceramic tiles, exotic woods, glass, and jewels.

  • The painting represents unity, it links the Earth, Heaven and the Underworld together, the tree’s roots go deep into the ground which is meant to show the presence of mother nature, and the fruit and flowers that are growing on the tree is meant to show that life comes from the tree, and the blackbird featured towards the centre part of the tree is meant to represent death and the underworld.
  • The swirling branches on the tree are a symbol of life, the way they twirl and spiral is an expression of how complex life can be. The branches reach into the sky and the roots into the earth creating a connection between heaven and earth, an idea often used by most cultures and religions to explain the tree of life. Also in the painting Klimt creates a connection with the underworld, the Blackbird, how it governs over any living thing, everything is born, grows and then returns back into the earth. Blackbirds have often been used as a symbol of death in many cultures.
  • Klimt’s painting could have been influenced by the Kabbalah Tree of Life, in the Kabbalah Tree of Life, the Left column is called the pillar of severity and represents the female aspect of creation Understanding, severity and splendour.
  • The right column is the pillar of mercy and represents the male aspect of creation Wisdom, Mercy and Victory.
  • The middle column is called the pillar of equilibrium and represents the balance between the male and female pillars Crown Beauty Foundation and Kingdom.

The work looks like it has been created on hundreds of ceramic tiles as a small square pattern can be seen behind the detail in the painting.

  • The painting is made up of many different materials and is almost like a collage and very little is known how he used the materials to make the painting, but the overall composition of the painting is well balanced everything flows nicely and the colors match up well, more color being concentrated towards the bottom of the painting and the figures at either sides.
  • The main focal point of the work is the tree in the center and the swirly branches lead the viewer around the painting to all the intricate details.
  • I personally feel that Klimt was successful in his attempt to create a work of art that showed the connection between life and death, looking at the painting definitely evokes a feeling of life and death.