klimt style painting
NOTE: For analysis of works by Secessionist painters like Gustav Klimt,
please see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).
The Kiss (1908). By Gustav Klimt.
Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna.
Among the great 20th century paintings.
Around 1911, Klimt stopped decorating his canvases with gold leaf. Instead, he began incorporating intricate planes of kaleidoscopic color into his compositions, culminating in designs reminiscent of woven tapestries or inlay decoration.
Another early example from this period is Judith I. Like many of his later pieces, this painting features a portrait of a woman (in this case, it is Judith, a biblical figure famous for slaying Holofernes, an invader) surrounded by decorative designs and set against a gold background. Similarly, Klimt also depicts the female figure with erotic undertones—an approach that would become intrinsic to his practice during this period.
In 1891, Gustav Klimt enrolls and becomes a member of the Co-operative society of Austrian artists, and the following year, both his brother and his father pass away. It is during this time that he decides to move to a larger studio, so that he will be able to create more, and will have more room to delve into the art forms he wants to work on in the future. In 1893, Gustav Klimt and Matsch are commissioned to paint the ceiling of the cathedral, in the new university of Vienna. During this period, both artists have a falling out; this in turn slows down the work, since both are taking a different approach in creation. Many of the pieces that were designed for the university, including “Medicine” and “Jurisprudence”, are not widely accepted by the local community, and are met with disdain due to the extreme symbolic nature in the art forms that were created in this public institution.
Gustav Klimt was seen as an artist who was far ahead of his time, and much of the work that was produced during the Austrian born artist’s career, was seen as controversial. It was criticized due to the erotic and exotic nature. Although symbolism was used in his art forms, it was not at all subtle, and it went far beyond what the imagination during the time frame accepted. Although his work was not widely accepted during his time, some of the pieces that Gustav Klimt did create during his career, are today seen as some of the most important and influential pieces to come out of Austria.
Oil on canvas – The Museum of Modern Art, New York
This work, considered by many to be Klimt’s finest, may also be his most famous due to its central role in one of the most notorious cases of Nazi art theft. Of all the many women Klimt painted from life, Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of the Viennese banker and sugar magnate Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, was one of his favorites, sitting for two portraits and serving as the model for several other paintings, including his famous Judith I (1901). Though Klimt was rumored to be romantically involved with numerous women he painted, his extreme discretion means there is still no consensus amongst scholars as to the exact nature of his and Adele Bloch-Bauer’s relationship.
Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d’art. 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 painted landscapes. Among the artists of the Vienna Secession, Klimt was the most influenced by Japanese art and its methods.
In 1901 Hermann Bahr wrote, in his Speech on Klimt: “Just as only a lover can reveal to a man what life means to him and develop its innermost significance, I feel the same about these paintings.”