Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt was born in a small town near Vienna in 1862 and educated at the Kunstgewerbe Art School. Klimt, as well as other symbolist painters, were part of a 19th century movement that infused art with mysticism by using mythology and dream imagery in order to paint the language of the soul. Klimt, however, was one of the most controversial. His use of symbolism in his work was considered too deviant and his art was constantly being criticized for being both too sensual and erotic. Klimt paintings that were so heavily disdained during his time are today considered to be some of the most important paintings ever to come out of Vienna.
Gustav Klimt began his career as an artist in 1883 when he formed Kanstlercompanie (an organization consisting of a group of artists) with his brother Ernest and a friend named Franz Matsch. They were commissioned by theatres, museums and churches to decorate the walls with murals and paintings. One of Klimt's most famous paintings Tragedy was commissioned by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. In 1893, Klimt and Matsch had a falling out over a commission from the new university of Vienna to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall. Klimt never again accepted another public commission and the company dissolved. Almost immediately following this break with Matsch, Klimt's painting Philosophy was exhibited at the Paris World Fair and won the Grand Prix.
Gustav Klimt paintings are distinguished visually by their elegant gold backgrounds and mosaïc patterns. Thematically, Klimt celebrates life, as demonstrated in The Kiss, a popular painting of a couple embracing passionately. However, at times, his paintings also juxtapose the joy of life with the certainty of death. Paintings such as Hope (a pregnant woman surrounded by pale solemn faces) offer the viewer a unique and profound experience of happiness at the beauty of life and sadness at the inevitability of death simultaneously. Gustav Klimt died of pneumonia in Vienna in 1918. Fortunately for the world, his work lives on.