Gustav Klimt at a Glance
“Whoever wants to know something about me, they should look attentively at my pictures.”
The Austrian artist Gustav Klimt is one of the key figures in the history of European art. His unique style is characteristic of the Symbolism and Art Nouveau movements of the late 19th Century. He has given us approximately 230 paintings and 4,000 sketches of allegory, women and landscape.
Klimt is a discreet person who shies away from societal events. He prefers to be in his studio, painting. In his own words: “There is nothing that special to see when looking at me. I'm a painter who paints day in day out, from morning till night.” He generally creates multiple paintings simultaneously, even up to five or six at a time, according to some of his letters. He works primarily in his studio however during his holidays to Lake Attersee, he’ll paint outdoors. The photos from this era suggest that he never removes his kaftan, a long artist’s robe designed by his friend Emilie Flöge.
It is said that he is hyperactive and loves the great outdoors. On the occasional morning in Vienna, he walks from his home in the 7th district along the foothills and all the way to Schönbrunn to have breakfast at Café Tivoli. There, he will meet up with friends, such as the famous Egon Schiele.
Klimt hasn’t left behind much in the way of writings and, those that have been recovered, do not reveal many intimate details of his life. He lives most of his life with his mother and sisters, a scenario that doesn't get in the way of him having countless affairs. In fact, he fathers 14 children, most of whom are unknown to him.
Although he never marries, the woman at the centre of his world is fashion designer Emilie Flöge. Klimt and Emilie become close shortly after the death of his brother Ernst in 1892. Throughout his life, he sends Emilie some 400 letters and postcards, sometimes several in one day, revealing a sincere and caring relationship, however no romantic declarations. The two learn French together, attend the opera and, most notably, spend their summers together on Lake Attersee. While Klimt suffers a stroke, his thoughts are with Emilie. His plea: “Emilie must come”. Gustav Klimt passes away in 1918 at the age of 55.