Known for his decorative style and the frank erotic nature, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), was an Austrian painter and an exponent of the Vienna Secession movement. He challenged the established concepts of art and introduced a movement which was largely similar to the Art Nouveau style. Klimt often shocked his critics with unorthodox techniques, and sometimes, provocative themes. He went on to become one of most revered artists in Europe. Here are some of the best known Gustav Klimt paintings.
Probably the most famous of all Klimt paintings, The Kiss is a major work of the Vienna Secession art movement. It’s also considered as one of the finest pieces of artwork in the early modern period. The painting depicts an embracing couple on the edge of a meadow. Art critics were thrilled when the painting was unveiled in 1908. Though unfinished, the Viennese Österreichische Galerie Belvedere promptly bought it. Klimt completed the painting a year later. The 180 x 180cm painting has since been on display at the Galerie.
It’s the first of the two portraits that Klimt painted of Bloch-Bauer, wife of a wealthy industrialist who supported the artist financially. It’s often labeled as the last and completely representative work of Klimt’s golden phase. It was supposed to be donated to Österreichische Galerie Belvedere after Adele’s death but was finally retained by her husband. The 138 x 138cm masterpiece was confiscated when the Nazi occupied Austria. It led to a bitter ownership struggle between the Bloch-Bauer family and the Austrian government. Renowned art collector Ronald Lauder bought the painting for New York’s Neue Galerie in 2006 for $135 million.
The 190 x 200cm oil on canvas depicts six nude women surrounding a virgin. It was completed in 1913. Die Jungfrau is one of the most famous Gustav Klimt paintings. There have been several interpretations regarding its meaning with most critics saying that it symbolizes a girl’s transformation to womanhood. The theory is supported by spirals on the drapery that arguably represent fertility, whereas the parted legs of the Virgin indicate sexual maturity. The painting is on display at the National Gallery, Prague.
The 77 x 83 cm oil painting depicts the daughter of mythical King Acrisius of Argos. Curious about his future, Acrisius visits Delphi Oracle to be informed that his daughter Danaë’s son will kill him one day. Acrisius imprisons Danaë to prevent her from bearing a child. But she’s visited by Zeus in the form of golden rain, who impregnates her. Gustav Klimt painted the moment when Zeus comes to Danaë. It’s represented by the golden rain between the latter’s legs. Completed in 1907, the famous painting is displayed at the Galerie Würthle, Vienna.
Perhaps the most monumental of all Gustav Klimt paintings, the Beethoven Frieze was painted for 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition to celebrate the famous composer. The piece was meant as an exhibit only, along with an equally brilliant Max Klinger polychrome sculpture. The frieze, painted with light materials directly on the wall, was preserved after the exhibition and didn’t go on display until 1986. The 7 x 112 ft frieze is on permanent display in a climate controlled specially built room at the Vienna Secession building.
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