Biography & Milestones
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) embodies an era that fascinates and resonates
to this day: Modernism. The artist left his mark especially on Vienna and
played a crucial role in shaping the era around 1900 together with his
companions, among them Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner, Joseph Maria Olbrich,
Richard Gerstl, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. At the turn of the 20th century,
Vienna was one of the birthplaces of Modernism, along with Paris, Munich and
London. The capital and residential city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a
European intellectual center and the fifth biggest city in the world, which
counted over two million inhabitants in 1910. The fields of visual arts,
literature, music, architecture and science experienced a heyday, with new and ground-breaking
ideas emerging at a pace and density rarely encountered before. The oeuvre of
Gustav Klimt mirrors the artistic path from the historicist “Ringstrasse era”
to the beginnings of abstract art in a particularly unique manner. The most
important milestones on his way to the “Gesamtkunstwerk”, or total work of art,
are outlined in the following biography.
Born on 14th July 1862, the second of seven children of Ernst Klimt (1834-1892) and Anna (1836-1915), née Finster, on Linzer Straße 247 in Baumgarten near Vienna.
Attends primary school followed by a secondary modern school. The Klimt family moves from the suburbs to Vienna’s 8th district, Lerchenfelder Straße, and shortly afterwards to Vienna’s 7th district, Neubaugasse 51.
The Kimt family moves into an apartment in Vienna’s 15th district, Märzstraße 48.
The Kimt family moves into an apartment in Vienna’s 15th district, Märzstraße 40.
Studies at the School of Applied Arts of the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry (present-day University of Applied Arts Vienna) until 1883. Klimt’s brothers Ernst (1864-1892) and Georg (1867-1931) also study there shortly afterwards. Meets Franz Matsch (1861-1942).
The Kimt family moves into an apartment in Vienna’s 7th district, Neubaugasse 8.
The Kimt family moves into an apartment in Vienna’s 6th district, Mariahilfer Straße 75.
Works on the festive procession by Hans Makart (1840-1884) in honor of the silver wedding anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth.
Klimt keeps a studio at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna’s 1st district, Stubenring 3.
Founds the artists’ association “Künstler-Compagnie” together with his brother Ernst Klimt and Franz Matsch, carrying out joint commissions until 1892. The artists’ association moves into a studio in Vienna’s 6th district, Sandwirthgasse 8.
1883 – 1886
Decorations for the theatres in Fiume (present-day Rijeka) and Karlsbad (present-day Karlovy Vary). Ceiling design for the Hermesvilla in Vienna commissioned by Empress Elisabeth.
The Klimt family moves into an apartment in Vienna’s 7th district, Stuckgasse 6. Frescoes for the grand staircase of the Vienna Burgtheater. Receives the Golden Cross of Honor.
Receives the Emperor’s Prize for his work Auditorium of the Old Burgtheater. The Künstler-Compagnie moves into a studio in Vienna’s 8th district, Josefstädter Straße 21. The Klimt family moves into an apartment in Vienna’s 7th district, Burggasse 47. Acquaintance with the Flöge family. Travels to Venice, Bolzano and Carinthia.
Frescoes for the grand staircase of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Becomes a member of the Austrian Artists’ Society (present-day Künstlerhaus). Rises in social circles. Ernst Klimt marries Helene Flöge (1871-1936), which leads to Klimt establishing first ties with Emilie Flöge (1874-1952).
Klimt’s father dies in July and his brother Ernst in December. Klimt assumes guardianship of his niece Helene “Lentschi” (1892-1980). Dissolution of the Künstlercompagnie, but Klimt keeps the studio on Josefstädter Straße 21. Artistic crisis and reorientation.
Silver medal at the exhibition of the Künstlerhaus for the painting Auditorium of the Theater of Esterházy Palace in Totis.
Commission for the Faculty Paintings for the assembly hall of the University of Vienna. Klimt creates the allegorical renderings Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence as well as the spandrel paintings, while Matsch designs Theology and the large central painting. Klimt only completes his paintings in 1907. His last public commission, the paintings cause a stir. Klimt moves into an apartment in Vienna’s 7th district, Westbahnstraße 36, together with his mother, his brother Georg and his two unmarried sisters Klara (1860-1937) and Hermine (1865-1937), where he will live until his death.
Commission to design the music room of the Palais Dumba in Vienna with the supraporte paintings Music and Schubert on the Piano. First known correspondence with Emilie Flöge on 16th February.
Becomes a member of the Society for Reproductive Art.
Becomes a founding member of the Vienna Secession and serves as its first president until 1899. Leaves the Austrian Artists’ Society. Travels to Munich. Spends the summer with Emilie Flöge and her sisters in Fieberbrunn, Tyrol. Klimt designs first sketches for the future Secession building. First known correspondence with Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann (1879-1975) on 18th November.
First exhibition at the (26th March to 15th June). First publication of the magazine Ver Sacrum. Becomes a member of the Munich Secession. The art committee of the Ministry of Education criticizes Klimt’s Faculty Paintings for the non-conforming depiction of the commissioned allegories and he is asked to rework them. To continue his work on this commission , he rents another studio with higher rooms in Vienna’s 8th district, Florianigasse 54, alongside his studio in the Josefstädter Straße, until 1907. Summer holiday in St. Agatha in the Salzkammergut region, where he creates his first landscapes. Opening of the second Secession exhibition (13th November) held at the new Secession building designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908). Becomes a portraitist of the Viennese upper middle class.
Stays in Italy. Summer holiday spent in the Salzburg town of Golling. Klimt’s landscape paintings are now created exclusively in a square format. First known correspondence with Maria Ucicka (1880-1928) on 12th June. Gustav Ucicky (died in 1961), the son of Gustav Klimt and Maria Ucicka, is born in July. Gustav Zimmermann (died in 1976), the son of Gustav Klimt and Marie Zimmermann, is born in September.
Exhibition of his first landscapes and the Faculty Painting Philosophy at the Secession. Art scandal in Vienna and gold medal at the Paris World Fair. Klimt spent his first summer with the Flöge family on the Attersee. Until 1907 he stays at the Brewery Inn in Litzlberg.
Exhibition of the Faculty Painting Medicine at the Secession together with works created on the Attersee. Renewed criticism and outrage concerning the Faculty Paintings. Klimt’s application for a professorship at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts is rejected.
Presentation of the 34-meter-long Beethoven Frieze on the occasion of the 14th Secession exhibition. Otto, the second son of Gustav Klimt and Marie Zimmermann, is born, but dies that same year.
Kolo Moser (1868-1918), Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956) and Fritz Waerndorfer (1868-1939) found the Wiener Werkstätte. Travels to Italy, including to Ravenna and Rome, where he derives important artistic impulses for his “Golden Period”. Large-scale “Klimt Collective” at the Secession featuring more than 80 works, including all three Faculty Paintings.
Commission for the mosaic frieze at the Palais Stoclet in Brussels. The palace completed in 1910/11 is considered to be the Wiener Werkstätte’s primary example of a Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art. Emilie Flöge opens her fashion salon “Schwestern Flöge” in the “Casa Piccola” building in Vienna’s 6th district, Mariahilferstraße 1b.
Publicly resigns from his commission for the Faculty Paintings and pays back his advance payment. The Klimt Group leaves the Secession. Friedrich Viktor Spitzer (1854-1922) creates a portrait series of Gustav Klimt.
Becomes the president of the newly founded Association of Austrian Artists (Künstlerbund). Travels to Brussels, London, Germany and Italy.
The work Dialogues of the Hetaera by Franz Blei (1871-1942) is illustrated with erotic drawings by Gustav Klimt. Exhibition of the Faculty Paintings in Berlin. Meets Egon Schiele (1890-1918).
The Klimt Group organizes the first Vienna Kunstschau on the site occupied today by the Vienna Konzerthaus, first exhibition of Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) on the recommendation of Klimt. Moritz Nähr (1859-1954) photographs some exposed paintings of Klimt. The Ministry of Education purchases the painting The Kiss. Madame d’Ora (1881-1963, real name Dora Kallmus) creates a representative photographic series of the artist. The Historical Museum of the City of Vienna (present-day Wien Museum) buys Klimt’s portrait of Emilie Flöge. From now until 1912 Klimt stays at the Villa Oleander in Kammerl, a district of Kammer-Schörfling, during his annual summer holidays on the Attersee.
Egon Schiele participates in the International Kunstschau in Vienna on the recommendation of Klimt. Travels to France, Spain and the Czech Republic. Moritz Nähr (1859-1945) and Pauline Kruger Hamilton (1870-1918) create portrait series independently of each other. Heinrich Böhler (1811-1940) photographs Klimt and Emilie Flöge on the Attersee.
Participates in the 9th Venice Biennale. Further exhibitions in Prague, Berlin and Vienna.
Completes the mosaic frieze for the Palais Stoclet in Brussels. Participates in the International Exhibition of Art in Rome and wins 1st prize for his painting Death and Life. Moritz Nähr photographs Klimt in the garden of his studio on Josefstädter Straße 21 in his blue painter’s smock with a cat, as well as the entrance room of Klimt’s studio. Klimt is forced to leave his studio in Vienna’s 8th district and provisionally moves into Helene Hochstetter’s infrequently used villa situated at the Hohe Warte. With the help of Felix Albrecht Harta (1884-1967), Klimt moves into his last studio in Vienna’s 13th district, Feldmühlgasse 11, a few months later.
Serves as president of the Association of Austrian Artists. Participates in the Dresden Art Exhibition. Gustav (died in 1989), the first child of Klimt and Consuela Camilla “Ella” Huber (1896-1978), is born. Spa trip to Bad Gastein with Emilie Flöge.
Participates in exhibitions in Budapest, Munich and Mannheim. Another spa trip to Bad Gastein with Emilie Flöge. During a summer stay at Lake Garda, Klimt becomes increasingly interested in architectural motifs. First summer without a longer sojourn on the Attersee. A brief stay in September is documented by color photographs of Emilie and Gustav taken by Friedrich G. Walker in the garden of the Villa Paulick using Lumière autochrome plates.
Participates in the exhibition of the Association of German Artists in Prague. Stays in Brussels and Bad Gastein. Birth of Charlotte (died in 1915), the daughter of Klimt and Consuela Camilla Huber. Klimt learns of the outbreak of World War I during his summer vacation on the Attersee. Between 1914 and 1916 he holidays in the calmer south of the lake at the Forester’s Lodge in Weißenbach. Anton Josef Trčka (1893-1940, “Antios”) creates a portrait series of Klimt. Snapshots were taken at the Tivoli and in Schönbrunn.
Death of Klimt’s mother Anna in February. Birth of Consuela Camilla Huber’s second son with Gustav Klimt, Wilhelm (died in 1943). Summer holiday on the Attersee. Exhibition of Viennese Artists in Zurich.
Participation in exhibitions at the Berlin Secession with Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, where Schiele’s painting Levitation is presented opposite Klimt’s Death and Life. Visits the Primavesi family in Winkelsdorf (present day Kouty nad Desnou) in Moravia, where photographs are taken during one of the family’s popular costume parties.
Becomes an honorary member of the Academies of Fine Art in Vienna and Munich. Travels to Bad Gastein, to the Zillertal and to visit the Primavesi family in Winkelsdorf (present day Kouty nad Desnou) in Moravia, from where he sends his last known postcard to Emilie Flöge on the 30th of December.
Gustav Klimt dies on the 6th of February 1918 at the Vienna General Hospital following a stroke. He is laid to rest three days later at Hietzing cemetery. Egon Schiele draws Klimt three times on his deathbed and tries to take over Klimt’s last studio in the Feldmühlgasse, but he himself dies from the Spanish Flu that year. Klimt’s studio apartment, including the garden shed, the studio itself and the reception room, is photographed by Moritz Nähr after Klimt’s death and is thus preserved for posterity. The paintings The Bride and Lady with Fan remain unfinished on the easel.