Gustav Klimt was born on 14 July 1862, the second of eight siblings. At the age of fourteen he enrolled at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) in the classes of Ferdinand Laufberger and Julius Viktor Berger. In 1879 Gustav, his younger brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch started collaborating and founded the “Künstler-Compagnie” (Artists’ Company). They secured commissions to paint decorative schemes in many theatres. From 1886 to 1888, Gustav Klimt worked on ceiling paintings for the staircases at the Burgtheater in Vienna, followed by paintings adorning the stairway of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in 1890. In 1891 Klimt became a member of the Vienna Künstlerhaus. After the sudden death of his brother Ernst, the Künstler-Compagnie disbanded. In 1897 Klimt was a founding member of the Vienna Secession and its first President. Klimt left the Secession in 1905 forming the so-called “Klimt Group” with Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Koloman Moser. In the summer of 1908 he contributed to the major “Kunstschau” exhibition, shown in a building designed by Otto Wagner. Work on the Palais Stoclet in Brussels began in 1906 and was completed in 1911.
Klimt’s close ties with the Flöge family led to him being invited to join them at the lake Attersee. Klimt regularly spent the summer months there between the years of 1900 and 1917 and it was here that he painted his “Attersee pictures”.
Gustav Klimt enjoyed success and financial independence even during his lifetime. In his early career he was awarded public commissions for decorative schemes in some of the prominent buildings on the Ring, works that still reflect the influence of Hans Makart. After 1900 he became a society painter, portraying ladies who were receptive to the new style. Even at that time, he sold his masterpieces to major museums, for example The Kiss was acquired by the Österreichische Galerie. But he was never given a professorship at the Vienna Academy. Many trips abroad coupled with frequent exhibitions garnered international acclaim for Klimt’s oeuvre. The artist died in Vienna on 6 February 1918 following complications after a stroke.