Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918) was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Art Nouveau (Vienna Secession) movement. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects, many of which are on display in the Vienna Secession gallery. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism–nowhere is this more apparent than in his numerous drawings in pencil (see Mulher sentada, below).
Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, the second of seven children, three boys and four girls. All three sons displayed artistic talent early on. His father, Ernst Klimt, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver. Ernst married Anna Klimt (nee Finster), whose unrealized ambition was to be a musical performer. Klimt lived in poverty for most of his childhood, as work was scarce and the economy difficult for immigrants. During the 1880s, Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch, begin a productive cooperation. They begin to do work in theaters, in churches, and public work in museums; many of the pieces which they created, were ordered by patrons who frequented the locations which they created works for. During this time, Gustav Klimt also created a piece for the Burg Theater, as well as the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is located in Vienna. The Allegories collection that he submits, is seen as a creative, and timeless piece; because of the work, he is commissioned to do a second piece for the museum. In this second collection, the style which includes gold paint, abstract space in the art, and exotic symbolism of the female figure, is a prominent style, which he sticks with for future pieces that he creates.
In 1891, Gustav Klimt enrolls and becomes a member of the Co-operative society of Austrian artists, and the following year, both his brother and his father pass away. It is during this time that he decides to move to a larger studio, so that he will be able to create more, and will have more room to delve into the art forms he wants to work on in the future. In 1893, Gustav Klimt and Matsch are commissioned to paint the ceiling of the cathedral, in the new university of Vienna. During this period, both artists have a falling out; this in turn slows down the work, since both are taking a different approach in creation. Many of the pieces that were designed for the university, including “Medicine” and “Jurisprudence”, are not widely accepted by the local community, and are met with disdain due to the extreme symbolic nature in the art forms that were created in this public institution.