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Gustav Klimt Artwork: Guide to Top Paintings

The Short Guide To Klimt’s Art

Are you as passionate as me about Gustav Klimt artwork? I was lucky enough to be born at the centre of his artistic work in Vienna. You are going to benefit from my Klimtmania with this one page appetiser: Gustav’s life in brief, what makes his art so brilliant and a closeup of his top 7 paintings.

Gustav Klimt Artwork: What Makes It Special

Gustav Klimt artwork is characterised by translucent females with flowing big hair, spooky monsters, overboarding nature, and most of all, rich ornaments. Klimt liked soft pastels, vibrant reds and rich yellows, and often gold plated his ornamental work.

Klimt loved allegories, Ancient, Medieval and Italian art. When in Vienna, you can see most Gustav Klimt paintings, drawings, sketches, frescoes, and exhibition posters at the Belvedere Vienna and at the Vienna Museum (Wien Museum).

Gustav Klimt In Brief

Gustav Klimt Artwork: Klimt, by Moritz Naehr
by Moritz Naehr, via Wikimedia Commons

To understand the role of Gustav Klimt artwork in Vienna, take a brief look at the artist’s life: Gustav Klimt (1862 to 1918) is one of Europe’s most famous Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) painters and incorporates the Austrian style of Art Nouveau (Jugendstil). As such, he has become one of the most popular representatives of Vienna art. A the end of the 19th century, Klimt co-founded the artists’ group Wiener Secession, a rebel group of young artists who parted from the conservative Austrian Artists’ Association (Künstlerhaus). Throughout his time in Vienna, Klimt worked in six different studios. His last studio, located at Klimt Villa in Hietzing, is open to the public.

Top Seven Gustav Klimt Paintings

Early Gustav Klimt artwork was classic and inspired by artists like Makart. You can see this clearly with the portrait of Judith. His own distinctive style became apparent during his Golden Period. He loved classic Italian, old Egyptian, Byzantine and Medieval art, but most of all women. In most Gustav Klimt artwork, you will also find allegoric symbols. Oil on canvas and lots of gold and silver leaf for paintings like Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss or Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer characterise Klimt’s painting technique.

The international art world trades Gustav Klimt artwork exceptionally high. Klimt paintings are auctioned for stellar prices, such as the portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer (USD 135m) or Litzlberg am Attersee (USD 40m).

Gustav Klimt Artwork 1: The Kiss

Gustav Klimt Artwork: The KissWith The Kiss Klimt created one of the centre pieces of Vienna art, which is being revered in Vienna like Mona Lisa is at the Parisian Louvre. Klimt stylises the love between man and woman, dissolving the classical portrait through rich ornanmental design. Just the two faces close to each other, a female shoulder, two hands, and two feet are visible, whereas their richly decorated wide gowns are flowing into one another. The couple stands on a colourful carpet of flowers. This is not about human bodies any more, but about what holds mankind and nature together: Love and Beauty.
Where To See It Belvedere Vienna;

Gustav Klimt Artwork 2: Adele Bloch Bauer

Gustav Klimt Artwork: Adele Bloch BauerAdele Bloch Bauer was an affluent Austrian, the wife of a local sugar manufacturer and daughter of a bank director. Her husband was one of the patrons of Klimt. Her portrait resembles a cut and paste art collage, as is typical for the Golden Period of Gustav Klimt artwork. Space is flattened into a whirl of decorative patterns. Three dimensional objects, like the chair on which Adele sits, are barely visible. The painting, dating from Klimt’s Golden Period was seized by the Nazis during World War Two. In 2006, Maria Altmann, Adele’s niece and rightful heir, received the painting back per order of court. Ronald Lauder bought the painting in the same year for USD 135 million. It became the second most expensive work of art in the world.
Where To See It New Gallery, Manhattan, New York;

Gustav Klimt Artwork 3: The Klimt Beethoven Frieze

Gustav Klimt Artwork: Angel's ChoirA symphony in pictures at the Vienna Secession: The monumental Klimt Beethoven frieze introduces Klimt’s Golden Period and visualises Richard Wagner’s famous interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Joy, passion, violence, illness, madness, death, the arts, lust and unchastity have been turned into allegories of sketchy females with mostly big hair, surrounded or covered by rich golden ornaments. This Kiss To The Whole World, a line from the Ninth Symphony entitles the frieze. Klimt created the frieze for the 14th exhibition of the Association of Visual Artists of Austria’s Secession in 1902. The naked females and shocking expressions of death, madness and illness provoked outrage among many Viennese and the broader public. The frieze covers three walls of a large basement hall at theSecession and is the only permanent exhibition there.
Where To See It Secession, Karlsplatz, A-1010 Vienna

Gustav Klimt Artwork 4: The Fulfilment

A man and woman deeply embrace each other. But, like with The Kiss, the real message is in the ornanments which cover them almost entirely. The woman’s flower dress makes her the symbol of the earth that melts with the male sun. The male lover’s coat is covered with old Egyption symbols of the sun god. (source: Dr. Christine Pellech) The whirls in the background represent the tree of life. In The Fulfilment, Klimt expanded the theme of lovers from the Beethovenfrieze with a meaning that embraces life and the universe itself. The drawing is based on one of Klimt’s three mosaic friezes in 15 parts for the dining room of Brussels-based Stoclet Palace, which had been designed by his architect friend and fellow Austrian Josef Hoffmann. The other significant mosaic friezes areExpectation, showing a single woman, and Tree of Life, showing the tree used as a background in Fulfilment and Expectation.
Where To See It Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, A-1010 Vienna (drawing): Stoclet Palace, Brussels (friezes)

Gustav Klimt Artwork 5: Death And Life

Gustav Klimt Artwork: Death and LifeLife would be a beautiful dream if there wasn’t death standing right next to it. In his allegory of death and life, Klimt visualises death as a single nasty threat that stands well apart of life, rather than forming part of it. Life itself comes in different shapes, from babies to young people and an old woman. Painted in 1910, the painting was awarded the first prize of the International Art Exhibtion in Rome a year later. In 1915, he overhauled parts of the painting, such as the background and some of the ornaments.
Where To See It Sammlung Leopold, Leopold Museum at the Museumsquartier

Gustav Klimt Artwork 6: Judith i

This is a portrait of Jewish Heroine Judith. She killed the Assyrian leader Holofernes who desired her in his sleep, saving her people from slavery and herself from an unwanted encounter with Holofernes.

The painting shows a strong triumphant woman who enjoys her liberty, and actually has more Viennese than Middle Eastern features. The colours gold (sun) and black (Egypt) and symbols are inspired by old Egyptian art.
Where To See It Upper Belvedere, A-1030 Vienna

Gustav Klimt Artwork 7: Emilie Flöge

Gustav Klimt Artwork: Emilie FloegeEmilie was an early model of a revolutionary Austrian female fashion designer and entrepreneur, designing the first local dresses to wear without a corset and selling them in her shop that she co-owned with her sister Helene. She was also Klimt’s long-standing partner and muse. In the portrait, she incorporates a self-confident, beautiful and modern woman. She is standing firmly between two rocks, while the patterned cushion-like patch behind her justifies its existence by providing additional glow to her hair and face.
Where To See It Vienna Museum (Wien Museum), Karlsplatz, A-1010 Vienna

All pictures on this page were made available through Wikimedia’s Creative Commons License

Quick Links For Art Lovers In Vienna

Vienna Museums

Klimt Villa

Vienna Art (controversial art in Vienna)

Art Nouveau Walk
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