The Vienna Secession - itself a masterpiece of Art Nouveau - displays the famous "Beethoven Frieze" at the very spot where it was first presented to the public.
As one of the leading figures of fin-de-siècle Vienna, Gustav Klimt created a body of works that made him what he is today: the most famous Austrian painter in the world.
The painter Gustav Klimt was born on 14 July 1862 in Baumgarten, a part of today's 14th district in Vienna. He is considered the main figure of Austria’s Art Nouveau.
From 1897 to 1905 Gustav Klimt was president of the Secession Vienna, of which he was also co-founder. His pictures, painted with unobtrusive colours full of symbolic power, are a combination of two-dimensional, mosaic-like elements and Art Nouveau ornaments. According to Klimt himself, who never painted self-portraits, he preferred to paint people - “especially women” - in mostly erotic forms. From his paintings, the viewer "should seek to recognize what I am and what I want.”
Gustav Klimt died on 6 February 1918 in Vienna.
He soon found himself in the midst of a group of artists who were working on the decoration of the new Ringstrasse buildings. At the beginning of the 1880s he, along with his brother Ernst and Franz Matsch, founded the Künstler-Compagnie, and over the next ten years, they received commissions to create murals and ceiling paintings in numerous buildings in Vienna and throughout the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire.
With the death of Ernst Klimt in 1892, this "Company of Artists" disintegrated. But artistically Gustav Klimt had already outgrown the historicist style of interior decoration. In turn-of-the-century Vienna, where Sigmund Freud was publishing his epoch-making works, art too was searching for new directions. Under the influence of Symbolism, Klimt was searching for a new formal language that would enable him to depict the landscapes of the soul characterized by dark emotions and hopeful fantasy images.
Despite receiving medals from Austrian emperors, Klimt was ignored by the aristocracy. He was the painter of the Haute bourgeoisie, which he depicted most prominently in his portraits of women, and he found numerous Jewish patrons who were open to the new trends in the arts. Klimt's life coincided with an epoch that the Austrian writer Hermann Broch called the "merry apocalypse". Klimt took this period of ambivalence and upheaval as a subject for artistic exploration and interpretation.
The year of his death, 1918, represented a momentous turning point. That same year saw the deaths of a number of kindred spirits, such as Otto Wagner, Kolo Moser, and Egon Schiele, and it also marked the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. What followed was a time of economic hardship; memories of the fin de siècle faded. A further turning point was represented by the years of Nazi terror. Many of the Jewish families who were Klimt's patrons and friends fell victim to this terror or were forced into exile.