Klimt was born in Vienna, where at the age of 15 he entered Vienna's School of Fine Art. After a successful career as an Interior Designer, he retreated from public life and began experimenting with contemporary styles, as well as historic, such as Japanese, Chinese, and ancient Egyptian. In 1897 he, along with forty other notable Viennese artists founded the "Union of Austrian Painters" better known as the "Secession." Klimt was the first president of the group. The group's aim was to bring Austria closer to the international art scene. At this time, artists throughout Europe were breaking away from conservative and official art associations and forming collectives or secessions. Klimt's group was closely tied to the decorative arts. This movement was called Art Nouveau in France. He resigned from the group in 1905.
In the early 1900's, Klimt created a new type of painting. These were ornamented portraits, inspired by mosaics he had seen in Italy. He began an unprecedented use of gold and silver leaf in his paintings. Women were now the center of his works. Each painting required so much work that he averaged only one of these works a year. Foremost among these is "Adele Bloch-Bauer 1" He worked on this one painting from 1904-1907. It is strikingly beautiful. She was the only woman that he painted twice.
This painting is the namesake of the movie, "Woman in Gold", starring Helen Mirren. If you love Art, this is a movie definitely worth seeing. It is the incredible true story of how Adele Bloch-Bauer's niece and her lawyer, successfully sued the Austrian Government for the return of five Klimt paintings that had been seized by the Nazis during World War II. They were in arbitration from 1998 to 2004, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Austria must relinquish the paintings to the heirs of Block-Bauer. At the time they were valued at $100 million.
In 2006, these five paintings were displayed at LACMA, The Los Angeles Co. Museum of Modern Art. At that time, the son of Este Lauder purchased the Woman in Gold, alone – for $140 Million. It is in the Neue Galerie in New York.
The Klimt painting considered by most to be his most famous is THE KISS. The man in the painting is supposedly Klimt, the woman was believed to be Emilie Floge, although this has not been proven. A fun – fictional read about this woman and their affair is :
"The Painted Kiss." by Elizabeth Hickey
Klimt suffered a stroke in 1918 and died at the age of 56 years. His paintings were far more accepted after his death.