It is well known that the fashion designer, Emilie Flöge, was Klimt's longtime partner. She was the one who accompanied Klimt to his appearances in bourgeois Viennese society. But Klimt and Flöge were not married to each other and did not live in the same household. They also had no children together. Klimt, on the other hand, was the father of several children whose mothers initially worked as models for him. It is hard to determine how many children Klimt had exactly. It is alleged that at Klimt's death, 14 claims were raised by illegitimate children for pensions and inheritance, for which there is no official proof. Only six children are officially documented, two of whom, however, died at a young age. Those six children were born to three different mothers. Klimt did not marry any of the mothers, nor did he live with them.
Nevertheless, Klimt did care for his children and their mothers by keeping in contact with them, and he made sure they were well looked after financially. In some cases, an almost familial relationship developed between them for a while. Marie "Mizzi" Zimmermann and their son Gustav (1899–1976) were one example of this.
For some years, while Gustav was still a toddler, Klimt was very interested in his development, as demonstrated by the many letters Klimt wrote to Marie Zimmermann at that time. In the following letter, for example, Klimt gives his young son some advice on his first birthday: "My dear Gusterl! I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart on your birthday and I wish you all the best for the future. Now you are a whole year old, that means you are already a big boy and you need to be able to walk alone, to say 'mommy' and 'daddy,' to learn to ask for different things all by yourself, using the very words, which, until now, you couldn't use, and had to let them pass you by in a certain silence. I'm curious to see how well you will do, so that we may call you a fine little boy one day. Best wishes again."
Two years later, Klimt is pleased with the well-being of his now three-year-old son and writes in a letter to the boy's mother: "I am glad to hear that you are healthy except for the rash on your little man, which will surely not amount to anything. It is good that the little fellow is mischievous and vivacious; it shows a good temperament, and is much better than having a quiet, timid little thing. You are no doubt happy that he gives you something to 'resolve'."
Text: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere / Franz Smola
© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere