Gustav Klimt (1862-1918).

  • Profession: Painter. Secession (member).
  • Residences: Vienna.
  • Relation to Mahler: Love affair with Alma Schindler.
  • Correspondence with Mahler: 
  • Born: 14-07-1862 Baumgarten, Austria.
  • Died: 06-02-1918 Vienna, Austria. Aged 55.
  • Buried: 09-02-1918 Hietzing cemetery, Vienna, Austria. Grave 5-194.

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession (association). 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. 

Early in his artistic career he was a successful painter of architectural decorations in a conventional manner. As he developed a more personal style, his work was the subject of controversy that culminated when the paintings he completed around 1900 for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna were criticized as pornographic.

Year 1901. Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). Judith and the Head of Holofernes. Galerie Belvedere, Vienna.

He subsequently accepted no more public commissions, but achieved a new success with the paintings of his ‘golden phase’, many of which include gold leaf. Klimt’s work was an important influence on his younger contemporary Egon Schiele (1890-1918).

Beethoven frieze

In 1901 Gustav Klimt painted the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secession (association) in celebration of the composer, and featured a monumental polychrome sculpture by Max Klinger (1857-1920). Meant for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials.

After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it did not go on display again until 1986. The Beethoven Frieze is on permanent display in the Vienna Secession (building) in a specially built, climate controlled basement room.

The frieze illustrates human desire for happiness in a suffering and tempestuous world in which one contends not only with external evil forces but also with internal weaknesses.

The viewer follows this journey of discovery in a stunning visual and linear fashion. It begins gently with the floating female Genii searching the Earth but soon follows the dark, sinister-looking storm-wind giant, Typhoeus, his three Gorgon daughters and images representing sickness, madness, death, lust and wantonness above and to the right.

Thence appears the knight in shining armour who offers hope due to his own ambition and sympathy for the pleading, suffering humans. The journey ends in the discovery of joy by means of the arts and contentment is represented in the close embrace of a kiss. Thus, the frieze expounds psychological human yearning, ultimately satisfied through individual and communal searching and the beauty of the arts coupled with love and companionship.

The face on the Beethoven portrait resembled the composer and Vienna Court Opera director Gustav Mahler, with whom Klimt had a respectful relationship. (28-04-2011. “Looted Klimt – the Mahler connections”. Arts journal. Retrieved 06-06-2012). The frieze is large, standing at 7 feet high with a width of 112 feet. The entire work weighs four tons.

Year 1901Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). The Knight of the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, said to be a portrait of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).

Year 1901Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). The Knight of the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt (detail), said to be a portrait of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).

Year 1909Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). Water Chateau (Chateau Kammer Attersee I, Schloss Kammer on Lake Attersee I). Oil on canvas. Lake Attersee. Klimt was here with Emilie Louise Floge (1874-1952). Painting first shown at the Internationale Kunstschau 1909 in Vienna together with several other landscapes, this is he earliest of 4 later variations on this theme.

Klimt takes great interest in the architectural details of the castle. The castle was built in the 13 century and seems to be growing out of the ground like a tree. The painting was complished from the boat shed of Villa Oleander in Kammer on Lake Attersee by using binocular and telescope.

Schloss Kammer is a moated castle in Schörfling am Attersee in Upper Austria. Located on a peninsula, originally on an island in the northern Attersee. The castle is a massive, rectangular, three-storey building with two low side wings surrounding a courtyard. The castle and its surroundings were presented by Gustav Klimt in numerous paintings at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Year 1909Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). Water Chateau (Chateau Kammer Attersee I, Schloss Kammer on Lake Attersee I). Signature.

  • 1901: Judith and the Head of Holofernes
  • 1901: Beethoven frieze
  • 1907: Adele Bloch-Bauer
  • 1908: The Kiss
  • 1909: Salome (Judith II)

If you have found any errors or text needing citation, please notify us by selecting that text and tap on selected text.

Error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: