Gustav Klimt (1862 – 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.
Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 and of the group’s periodical Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring). He remained with the Secession until 1908. The group’s goals were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the best foreign artists works to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine to showcase members’ work. The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style – Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group’s symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts – and Klimt painted his radical version in 1898.
I can paint and draw. … Only two things are certain. 1) I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for painting than I am in other people, above all women. But other subjects interest me even more. I am convinced that I am not particularly interesting as a person. There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning until night. Figures and landscapes, portraits less often. 2) I have the gift of neither the spoken nor the written word, especially if I have to say something about myself or my work. Whoever wants to know something about me – as an artist, the only notable thing – ought to look carefully at my pictures and try to see in them what I am and what I want to do…. –Gustav Klimt