Gustav Klimt (1862 Vienna – Vienna 1918) is the greatest and most impressive person of the Austrian art at around 1900. Coming from modest circumstances, Klimt studied at the Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule where his talent for drawing was soon discovered. Therefore he got a number of public contracts together with his brother Ernst und his university friend Franz Matsch. The panaches at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the great paintings at the staircase of the Burgtheater testify the technical perfection of this young „Künstler-Compagnie“. However these works were entirely committed to Viennese historicism. During the 1890s Klimt was looking for different means of expression and finally founded the Secession in 1897 with other like-minded artists. Klimt was the first president of the Vienna Secession. The culmination of this development were the University of Vienna ceiling paintings that burned in 1945 in a mansion in Lower Austria. The Leopold Museum presents these major works by Klimt for the first time as black and white photographs in the original size. The radical depiction of his personal view of the world was too pessimist for the professors at the University of Vienna and led to a huge scandal at the time. As a reaction Klimt decided never to accept any public contract again and focused on the creation of lyric landscape paintings that he painted during his summer visits together with the Flöge family to the Attersee region in Upper Austria.
After having focused on decoratively overloaded, splendid art works, he starts developping a softer style at around 1910. The painting “Death and Life” was created and several times over-worked. Klimt elevates the topic into something general and gives „life“ a wonderful beauty with some inherent sadness – with death standing next to it. Enfeebled by a cerebral apoplexy, Gustav Klimt dies of pneumonia on 6th February 1918.
Gustav Klimt once said about himself:
“I can paint and draw. There is no self-portrait of myself. I am not interested in my own person – more in other people, females. […] I paint day by day from morning to night – figurative paintings and landscapes, less often portraits. Already when I should write a simple letter I get frightened like of imminent seasickness. Those who want to know more about me shall observingly regard my paintings, and try to realize who I am and what I want.“
Since paper works are very light sensitive, all different kinds of drawings, water color works and prints cannot be exhibited permanently. Besides special exhibitions where paper works are exhibited temporarily, the art works are preserved at the depot of the museum and are not publicly accessible. We apologize for the inconvenience and kindly ask for your understanding. If you are interested in a particular paper work, please feel free to ask at the museum if it is currently exhibited.