Sunday, 30 September 2012


“Mother is the home we come from. She is nature, soil, ocean.” - Erich Fromm

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was one of the most innovative and controversial artists of the early twentieth century. He was the son of a gold and silver engraver and was born in a suburb of Vienna, Austria. He studied at the State School of Applied Arts in Vienna.

In 1882, Klimt opened a studio of his own with his brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch, a fellow student. They specialised on executing mural paintings. They were quite successful from the beginning and received commissions from theaters, museums and other public and semi-public institutions. In the 1890s he produced murals for public buildings, including Vienna’s Burgtheater and new Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum), in the prevailing classical-realist style.

Klimt’s style grew increasingly experimental, however, and his murals for Vienna University, commissioned by the State in 1894, were roundly attacked by critics for their fantastical imagery and their bold, highly decorative style. Partly in response to this reaction, in 1897 Klimt helped form the Secession, a group of artists dedicated to challenging the conservative Academy of Fine Arts. Influenced by European avant-garde movements represented in the annual Secession exhibitions, Klimt’s mature style combined richly decorative surface patterning with complex symbolism and allegory, often with overtly erotic content.

After 1900 he concentrated on portraits and landscapes, although he also produced two of his greatest murals during this period, “The Beethoven Frieze”, exhibited at the Secession in 1902, and decorations for the Palais Stoclet in Brussels (1904-1911). Klimt spent most of his summers on the Attersee, near Salzburg, where he drew inspiration for many of his landscapes, and where he painted some of his best-known works, including “The Kiss” of 1907-8.

Klimt’s works were highly controversial during his lifetime because of the open display of nudity and the subtle sexuality and eroticism they contained. The artist created few paintings on the traditional canvas support. He saw himself more as a mural painter and decorative artist. He designed posters and worked as an illustrator for magazines - best known “Ver Sacrum” (The Rite of Spring). Ver Sacrum was published from 1898 to 1903.

From 1900 to 1903 Gustav Klimt worked on commissions by the Vienna University for a series of ceiling murals. For his mural works Klimt used a wide variety of media – including metal, glass and ceramics. The Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph II disliked Klimt’s art work intensely and abhorred the Secessionists deeply. His drivers had orders not to pass any buildings showing Secessionist art!

Here is a tenderly maternal detail from Klimt’s “The Three Ages of Woman”. This is rich in his trademark ornamentation and swirls of golden objects, floral motifs and bold colours. The portraits while striking in their positioning and boldness of composition are nevertheless reminiscent of a Madonna and child and convey the concept of maternal love beautifully.


  1. i almost missed the third the subtle feelings that this mural evokes...

  2. Perfect timing!!

    Since 1912 was the 150th birthday of Gus­tav Klimt, the Vien­na Museum has also mounted a temporary Klimt show that will last until Jan. Paintings and graphic works from the holdings of the Kunsthis­toris­ches Museum in Vienna have been added to by loans from Swiss and German collections.

    Thanks for the link