10 Interesting Facts About Gustav Klimt - The Kiss Painter

10 Interesting Facts About Gustav Klimt - The Kiss Painter

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter who was a key figure in the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt's paintings, murals, sketches, and other works of art are well-known. Klimt's principal subject was the female body, and his paintings are characterized by open sexuality.


  • His favorite subjects were women

"I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than in other people, especially women," Klimt said. Klimt's depictions of women are distinguished by their erotic power, and he is known for his enigmatic femme fatales. Judith I (1901), for example, notoriously subverts the traditional portrayal of the Biblical heroine as a virtuous tool of God, depicting an openly sensuous woman exalting in her dominance over man.

Klimt produced an incredible amount of sensual drawings in his final years, many of which were blatantly sexual, in addition to the portraits and allegorical depictions for which he is best known.

  • Klimt's connection with Emilie Louise Flöge, his inspiration, and long-term girlfriend, was most likely chaste.

Klimt's favorite model and lasting partner was Flöge, whose sister Helene married Klimt's brother Ernst in 1891. Flöge, a successful fashion designer, shared Klimt's passion for costume and embellishment, producing and modeling the artist's outfits in several pictures and paintings.

The Kiss, one of Klimt's most well-known works, is claimed to show Flöge and Klimt as lovers. However, many people believe that the relationship did not end. Instead, the over 400 pieces of communication between Klimt and Flöge that have survived prove to be an emotionally and intellectually close friendship. "Get Emilie," Klimt is said to have said before he died. He left half of his estate to Flöge and the other half to his family when he died.

  • Klimt was captivated by human sexuality, dreams, and the unconscious, just like his cultural contemporary Sigmund Freud.

The developing field of psychoanalysis provided a major challenge to conventional beliefs on sex and the human psyche against the backdrop of conservative fin de siècle Viennese society. Klimt's artwork, like Freud's writings, places sexuality at the center of emotional life and expresses unconscious desires through dreamlike totems and symbols."All art is erotic," he famously said, a statement that Dr. Freud would definitely agree with.

  • He was raised in poverty despite becoming one of the most commercially successful artists of his time.

Klimt was the second of seven children born to Ernst Klimt the Elder, a gold engraver, and Anna Klimt (née Finster), a failed musician, in a small neighborhood of Vienna. In the Habsburg Empire, work was limited, so the family moved frequently, staying in five different residences between 1862 and 1884.

  • He was the Vienna Secession's first president.

Klimt and a group of twenty other painters, sculptors, and architects formed their own creative organization in 1897, rejecting the orthodox KĂĽnstlerhaus. Klimt was elected president, and he was engaged in organizing shows until 1905 when he left the club.

The Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) was a movement that opposed the insular historicism of the Vienna art establishment and heralded the beginning of contemporary art in Austria. Despite the fact that the Secession was not connected with a specific creative style, its members were unified in their opposition to academic tradition and embracing of the international avant-garde.


  • Klimt epitomized the Secessionists' fascination with Gesamtkunstwerk ("whole artwork").

The Secessionists passionately embraced the concept, which was popularized by German composer Richard Wagner, as they tried to establish a harmonic synthesis of visual art, architecture, and the performing arts. The 14th Secessionist Exhibition, a tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven, was the movement's most comprehensive work of Gesamtkunstwerk.

The gigantic Beethoven Frieze, a gift by Gustav Klimt, was painted directly onto the Secession building's walls, and its unveiling was accompanied by a performance of Gustav Mahler's version of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Klimt's concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, exemplified in the brilliantly decorative Stoclet Frieze (1905-11), influenced following movements such as Bauhaus and Constructivism.

  • While Klimt is best known for his figurative paintings, he also painted landscapes.

Klimt began spending his summers with the Flöge family in Lake Attersee in Austria in the late 1890s, where he painted several of his en plein air landscape paintings. Locals in Attersee dubbed Klimt "Waldschrat," which roughly translates to "hobgoblin" or "wood gnome," pleased by his apparent quirkiness. Klimt's landscapes have flattened compositions and his distinctive combination of naturalism, pattern, and abstraction, which are stylistic markers of his better-known works.

  • He was a cat lover.

His beloved Katze, depicted with the artist in an emotive 1912 portrait, was one of his many pet cats. "I was surrounded by eight or ten mewing and purring cats" running wild amid mounds of sketches, wrote critic Arthur Roessler of a visit to Klimt's workshop.

  • His paintings were the topic of one of the most well-known Nazi art theft cases.

Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Czech sugar mogul, owned five Klimt paintings, including two portraits of his wife, Adele. Following the annexation of Czechoslovakia and Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, their assets became a target for Nazi looting. Maria Altmann, Bloch-niece, Bauer's sued the Austrian government in 2000 to recover the paintings; the case went to the Supreme Court in 2004 and was finally victorious.Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was sold to cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder for a record-breaking $135 million in 2006, and it became the focus of the Neue Galerie collection. The case is dramatized in Helen Mirren's 2015 film Woman in Gold, which stars her as Maria Altmann.

  • He was also a well-known womanizer.

Klimt had several partners and is reputed to have fathered 14 children although he was never married. He went to great lengths to keep his affairs private and prevent personal embarrassment; as a result, historians have speculated about the depth of his connections with his female sitters, many of whom were affluent society women.


 Gustav Klimt FAQ's

When was Gustav Klimt born?

Gustav Klimt, was born July 14, 1862 at Vienna, Austria

Why is Gustav Klimt important?

Klimt was a master of symbolism and the pioneer of the Vienna Secession movement. The lush, elaborately adorned figures and patterns that populated his canvases, murals, and mosaics had allusions to sexuality and the human psyche. Their messages, which included pleasure, sexual liberty, and human misery, were frequently only thinly veiled. 

Was Gustav Klimt married?


How many paintings did Gustav Klimt make?

161 artworks

What materials did Gustav Klimt use?

Klimt employed a variety of paints, colored chalks, and graphite in his work.

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