The Belvedere is hosting “Masterpieces in Focus: 150 Years of Gustav Klimt” which runs from July 12, 2012 through January 6, 2013. Owning the largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt worldwide, the entire collection will be part of the anniversary exhibition.
Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, the second of seven children. Klimt lived in poverty for most of his childhood. In 1876, Klimt enrolled in the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), where he studied until 1883, and received training as an architectural painter. He revered the foremost history painter of the time, Hans Makart. Unlike many young artists, Klimt accepted the principles of conservative academic training. Klimt began his professional career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings.
Klimt’s ‘Golden Phase’ was marked by positive critical reviews and commercial success. Many of his paintings from this period utilized gold leaf; the prominent use of gold can first be traced back to Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), although the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907 – 1908).
Klimt traveled little but trips to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique and his Byzantine imagery. Between 1907 and 1909, Klimt painted five canvases of society women wrapped in fur. His apparent love of costume is expressed in the many photographs of Flöge modeling clothing she designed.
Klimt’s paintings have brought some of the highest prices recorded for individual works of art. In November 2003, Klimt’s Landhaus am Attersee sold for $29,128,000, but that was soon eclipsed by prices paid for other Klimts. In 2006 the artist’s Apple Tree I sold for $33 million and Birch Forest sold for $40.3 million. Both works have been returned to the heirs of Adele Bloch-Bauer.
Art historians note an eclectic range of influences contributing to Klimt’s distinct style, including Egyptian, Minoan, Classical Greek, and Byzantine inspirations. His most common theme was that of the femme fatale.
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