Gustav Klimt, the symbolist

Gustav Klimt's symbolic paintings or symbolism paintings are regarded as far ahead of their time, but much of Klimt's work sparked controversy.

At the turn of the last century, Klimt's pieces were regarded as far too extreme to a conservative public. He began as a symbolic artist and then broadened into eroticism which was not well received. Symbolism was initially used in Gustav's earlier artwork, but it was too much for the public to take in and went beyond what was acceptable at the time. Although his work was not widely accepted during his lifetime, some of his work is today seen as among some of the most important and influential symbolism paintings ever to be produced by an Austrian artist

Gustav Klimt was born in Austria in 1862. His father worked as a gold engraver, but did not earn much, and so Klimt was raised in poverty. In 1876, when he was 14 years old, Klimt enrolled in the Vienna Public Arts Schools. His talent got him noticed straight away. As a result he received his first commission to create some art for public viewing.

During the 1880s, Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch, began an artistic collaboration. They undertook commissions in theatres, churches, and in museums. During this time, Gustav Klimt also created an art piece for the Burg Theatre, as well as the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is in Vienna. The so-called Allegories collection which he submits, is regraded as timeless piece. As a result, he is commissioned to do a second piece for the museum. For this he utilises gold paint, and introduces exotic female symbolism into the future pieces that he creates.

In 1891, Klimt becomes a member of the Co-operative society of Austrian artists. The next year, both his brother and his father tragically die. It is during this time that he moves into a larger studio, and will have more room to experiment with different art forms. In 1893, Klimt and Matsch get to paint the ceiling of the cathedral, in the new university of Vienna. Unfortunately both artists have a falling out which slows down the work, since both are taking a different approach to the project. Many of the pieces that were designed for the university, including "Medicine" and "Jurisprudence", are met with disdain locally due to the extreme symbolic nature of the art. Because of the adverse local reaction, Klimt feels that he needs to go in another direction.

And so in 1897, he begins the Sezession Movement. This movement focusses mainly on young artists, and is an attempt to bring foreign art forms to the Vienna based magazines. In 1898, the movement has its first exhibit, which draws in nearly 60,000 visitors. From this period, to about 1905, Gustav Klimt was the guiding force and leader of this movement. During this time, it is the most popular, and most well known art movement in Vienna.

Although Gustav Klimt and his former partner had disagreed artistically, in 1900, the first exhibit which he created for the University of Vienna, went on public display. It was presented at the Paris World Fair, where Klimt won the Grand Prix award for the piece. He continues the work in the university during1901, even though, once again it is met with criticism by locals in Vienna.

After leaving the Sezession Movement in 1905, Gustav Klimt decides on a new approach, which is not well accepted in Vienna either; not only by other artists, but by the locals. During this period of time, eroticism becomes the subject matter that Klimt concentrates on. Many of Klimt's female subjects were painted in evocative and erotic positions that were very sensual. They were images which courted controversy but appealed to a new sensibility where sexuality was better appreciated.

In the same year, psychologist Sigmund Freud published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, a book that challenged attitudes to sex. Like Freud, Klimt wanted to put sexuality into the public arena. Among other pieces he creates ' Danae,' and 'The Kiss', which are erotic and exotic in nature. Up until about 1914, many of the pieces that he created, had a sexual theme, and were not widely accepted. This was due to their graphic nature which was ahead of its time.

In 1911, Gustav Klimt went to Florence and Rome, and creates several projects including.' Death and Life', 'The Maiden', and 'The Bride' which are among the landscape pieces that he created over next few years. Outside of Vienna, these pieces were more widely accepted, due to the different attitudes towards art found regionally, outside of Austria. His work was still graphic in nature, and took an original approach to depicting landscape, and the human figure. Unfortunately his work was better appreciated abroad.

In 1918, Gustav Klimt suffered from a stroke in his apartment; and, on February 6th, he died of pneumonia. Although much of his work was not accepted during his career, due to its graphic nature, it was looked at again after his death. His symbolism paintings were being perceived in a dfiferent way. Also the sales of his pieces increased afterwards and were seen as being some of the best to have come out of Vienna at that point in art history.