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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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We celebrate one of the true stars of 20th-century art, the Austrian painter, Gustav Klimt.

Gustav Klimt was the central figure of Vienna's Golden Age and his work linked together the famous periods of Symbolism and Modernism. The artist is best remembered for his personal depictions of women as well as stunning, detailed landscapes. Alongside the elaborate, overwhelming paintings such as The Kiss, Adele Bloch-Bauer and Beethoven Frieze, there were also famous delicate drawings which show off Klimt's exceptional raw talent and ability to capture female beauty.

Some of the more famous works from the artist's considerable back catalogue of work include paintings, murals, sketches and other media, many of which are available to see in the Vienna Secession gallery. Other members of the Vienna Secession are known to have influenced the progress of Klimt's art, such as Egon Schiele. There were also Japanese artists who he took inspiration from as well. Gustav came from a large family whose father has passed on artistic abilities to many of his children, though Gustav was the only one to make such a famous impact. A fuller biography for the artist is available here.

The Kiss

The Kiss is now in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in the Belvedere palace, Vienna and remains one of the biggest draws for art fans anywhere in the world. Klimt was an artist whose style always brought about discussion and controversy, but this was one painting which received academic acclaim from all quarters and has grown in popularity ever since. The most memorable elements of this masterpiece are the embracing couple whose clothing makes use of gold leaf paint and extraordinary detail which is synonamous with the work of this artist.

Tree of Life

The swirling branches of the Tree of Life is instantly recognisable as the work of Klimt. This symbolic item is used in many religions and the artist adds his own version with the typical flourishes found around this time of his career.

The Tree of Life was one part of a series of large paintings produced on commission for the Palais Stoclet in Brussels in Belgium. This artwork is now on display at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria.

To see this painting, it will not surprise you that it came during the artist's Golden Period, but it was in fact the only landscape that he produced at this time.

Adele Bloch-Bauer

Adele was the wife of industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer who called upon the services of Klimt on several occasions.

This was the first of two commissioned portraits of her, the second of which naturally titled Adele Bloch-Bauer II.

This first installment has gained great notariety for Klimt because of the high prices paid for it across several private sales as well as the elaborate gold leaf touches which the artist is famous for.

Water Serpents

This series depicts women embracing alongside stunning patterns across the background.

The Water Serpents theme allowed Klimt to use lesbian themes, but avoid mass-controversy at the time that each of these two paintings were completed.

They remain just some of the famous examples of the artist's love for the female body and how he could adapt it's beauty in his work.


Tannenwald, or Fir Forest, was one of a number of tree based paintings from Klimt, with others including Farm House with birch trees, Tannenwald II, Fruit Trees plus Beech Forest I & II.

The frequency in which the artist covered these trees reminds us of how Monet experimented with his Haystacks series, capturing different influences on the same objects such as sunlight strength and angle.

The narrow trunks of fir trees allowed Klimt to fit many into a single painting and also place them carefully to give the painting greater depth.

Mother and Child

Mother and Child is actually a cropped part of Klimt's Three Ages of Women from 1905.

The elderly lady remains in the finished work, but some art fans have preferred reproductions of the younger two generations of the painting, with a close-up print of the two proving popular.

Three Ages of Women symbolises the passing of time, whilst still allowing Klimt the opportunity to continue his favoured female portraiture.


The eroticism of Klimt continues here, with Danae's thighs getting great prominence in this artwork. Swirling patterned materials continue here with gold leaf detail again making an appearance.

The use of a red head seemed to be an inspired choice by the artist, adding yet more colour and providing contrast from other elements of the painting.

Danae provides continuity within the artist's career alongside other sensual female portraits such as the Water Serpents series and The Kiss.

Beethoven Frieze

Beethoven Frieze was a large mural created for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition but was later preserved and retained, before being returned to display in 1986.

This symbolic painting outlines the battles faced in one own's mind from temptation for happiness, as well as from external forces. This detailed piece features many portraits right across the artwork and will have taken the artist quite some time to complete.

This mixed media artwork made use of casein and gold paint, black and color chalk, graphite on plaster plus other materials such as mirror, mother-of-pearl and curtain rings as the artist sought to draw on as many techniques as possible in order to impress at this exhibition.

Three Ages of Woman

Three Ages of Woman is the larger mural from which Mother and Child is a cropped section.

The path of time is symbolised here through the multi-generational portrait which also covers the beautiful and not so beautiful impact of time on the female body.

The Three Ages of Women had won the gold medal in the 1911 International Exhibition in Rome, Italy.

Death and Life

Death and Life is easy to grasp, with two clearly defined sections linked to the title of the painting.

It is believed that the meaning of the work is quite simply life and death, without any further meaning necessarily behind that. Women are

Young women dominate the life element of the painting, in yet another Klimt painting which plays on the beauty of the female body, particularly when around that age.

Hope II

Artist Klimt titled this work Vision, though it's connection to Hope I has led it to becoming more widely referred to as Hope II in recent years.

As the pregnant woman and her friends remain deep in thought, they pray best wishes for the new born that appears from behind the patterned clothing of it's mother.

This painting again symbolises elements of life as with so many of Gustav Klimt's other paintings, such as Tree of Life, Death and Life and Three Ages of Woman.

Portrait of a Young Woman

This pencil drawing from around the end of the 19th century outlines Klimt's skills as a draughtsman.

Artist Klimt produced endless sketches of female nudes across his career, besides Portrait of a Young Woman. They would be study pieces for full scale murals, and other times simply model portraits in their own right.

Malcena at the Gardasee

Malcesine on Lake Garda (Gardasee) is one of a series of landscape paintings produced by Klimt in this European region.

Malcesine is a municipality in the Italian province of Verona, and is also a popular choice for many landscape painters, because of the beauty of the towns amongst the rolling hills.

This particular artwork was destroyed during WW2 but fortunately enough information remains so followers of the artist can still learn more about it.


Greek businessman and strong arts supporter, Nikolaus Dumba, commissioned Klimt to create several works for the Palais Dumba in Vienna, and Music was one such work.

Music, 1895 is considered an allegorical painting, in line with so many other artworks from the Austrian's career.

The painting was appropriately placed in the Music room of the palace and the artist then created a follow-up entitled Music II.