Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) was an architectural mural painter – essentially a decorator – before he shocked Vienna in 1899 with his expressionistic and “pornographic” nudes. Born in Baumgarten, Austria-Hungary, his family sent him to Vienna in 1876 for a traditional, craft-based artistic education. It wasn’t until his father and younger brother, Ernst, both died in 1892 – leaving Klimt responsible for both families, as well as his own – that Klimt’s sensibility turned inward and personal. At the turn of the century, he helped found the Vienna Succession – a group of artists and architects who sought a “total art” and rejected nationalism by interfacing with artists outside Austria. Younger artists began to seek him out, and his paintings became known across Europe. Though he discreetly avoided scandals, his life grew increasingly bohemian, and he fathered an estimated 14 children before he died of pneumoniac complications of Spanish flu in 1918.