The Life of Gustav Klimt (1862-92)

The artists early life and career

Gustav Klimt (1887)Belvedere


On July 14, Gustav Klimt was born in Vienna to Ernst Klimt (1834–92) and his wife, Anna (1836–1915), née Finster, as the second of seven children. The house in which he was born, at 247 Linzer Straße, is no longer there. It was located in the then suburb of Baumgarten, which today forms part of the 14th district of Vienna. Klimt's father worked as a self-employed engraver and came to Vienna with his parents at the age of eight. They were originally from the North Bohemian town of Drabschitz (now Travčice) in the district of Leitmeritz (now Litoměřice) in Czechia.


Gustav Klimt attended elementary and high school in Vienna for eight years.


Klimt was admitted to the School of Applied Arts of the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry. His brothers Ernst and Georg also become students there.

Fable (1883) by Gustav KlimtWien Museum


Gustav and Ernst Klimt, along with their study partner Franz Matsch, founded the "Künstler-Compagnie" (Artists' Company), which specialized in creating wall and ceiling paintings for theater buildings in the cities of the Danube monarchy.


Gustav and Ernst Klimt, along with Franz Matsch, created four ceiling paintings, a proscenium, and a set of curtains for the Reichenberg Municipal Theater (now Liberec, Czechia). This commission also served as the final exam piece for their Fine Arts training at the Vienna School of Applied Arts.

The members of the Artists' Company moved into a studio at number 8 Sandwirthgasse, in Vienna's 6th district. They took on commissions for numerous works for the Romanian king, Carol II, at his residency in Pelesch (Sinaia), which took them until 1886. Gustav Klimt painted "Fable" (Wien Museum) for the "Allegories and Emblems" portfolio, published by Martin Gerlach.

Idyll (1884) by Gustav KlimtWien Museum


The Artists' Company designed the theater curtain for the Karlsbad Municipal Theater in Bohemia (today Karlovy Vary, Czechia). "Idyll" (Wien Museum) was painted as part of the "Allegories and Emblems" portfolio, published by Martin Gerlach.

The ceiling painting Spring in the salon of the empress, Hermesvilla (1885) by Gustav Klimt jointly with Ernst Klimt and Franz MatschWien Museum


The Artists' Company was engaged in various projects, including a theater curtain for the Karlsbad Municipal Theater in Bohemia (today Karlovy Vary, Czechia), ceiling paintings for the Hermes Villa in Vienna-Lainz, nine ceiling paintings for the Fiume Municipal Theater in the Dalmatian coastal region (today Rijeka, Croatia), and works for the residency of the Romanian king, Carol II, in Pelesch (Sinaia).

The ceiling panels of Burgtheater's state staircase Volksgartenseite (1886/1887)Burgtheater


The Artists' Company worked on ceiling paintings for two staircases at the Vienna Burgtheater (Imperial Court Theater), which took them until 1890. Gustav Klimt and Franz Matsch were commissioned to capture the interior of the old Burgtheater, which was about to be demolished, on canvas. Klimt chose the view of the auditorium, and Matsch the view of the stage (both Wien Museum).

Allegory of Sculpture (1889) by Gustav KlimtMAK – Museum of Applied Arts


Klimt created a drawing entitled "Allegory of Sculpture" (MAK, Vienna) for the "Allegories and Emblems" portfolio by Martin Gerlach.

Emilie Flöge in a Reform Dress (1909) by Madame d'Ora, AtelierAustrian National Library


The Artists' Company produced inter-column paintings for the stairwell of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Gustav Klimt became a member of the Austrian Artists' Society at the Künstlerhaus. In October 1891, Ernst Klimt married Helene Flöge. Through Helene, Gustav Klimt became better acquainted with her sister, Emilie Flöge, with whom he would maintain a close relationship over the coming years. Until Klimt's death, Emilie Flöge was the most important woman in his life.

Ernst Klimt (1890) by Carl SchusterBelvedere


The Artists' Company moves to a studio in Vienna's 8th district, Josefstädter Straße 21. On July 13, Klimt's father, Ernst, died of a stroke. On December 9, his brother, Ernst, died totally unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Gustav Klimt standing in his garden in front of his studio (1911-05) by Moriz NährAustrian National Library


Franz Matsch leaves the studio in Josefstädter Straße and from then on, Klimt worked there alone.

Credits: Story

Text: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere / Franz Smola

© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

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