Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was born in Vienna into a lower middle-class family. Veering away from the traditional painting he learned at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, he began to draw his artistic influences from historical styles such as Asian, Ancient Egyptian, Mycenaean, and Byzantine art combined with the gilding of Italo-Byzantine mosaics.
In 1893, he began work the paintings Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence, for the University of Vienna.
When completed, they were met with criticism for their radical style. The painter was not alone in his opposition to the Austrian artistic establishment. In 1897, he, together with forty other Viennese artists, founded the "Union of Austrian Painters," more commonly known as the Austrian Secession.
In 1902, Klimt finished the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist Exhibition in celebration of the composer. Klimt's 'Golden Phase' quickly followed the success of the Beethoven Frieze and this new style brought with it positive critical reaction. These paintings are characterized by the extensive use of gold leaf Klimt applied, the technique tracing back to Pallas Athene, 1898 and Judith I, 1901. However, the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907 and The Kiss, 1907–1908.
Klimt's fame brought patrons to his door, and he could afford to be highly selective. His painting method was very deliberate and painstaking requiring lengthy sittings by his subjects. Collecting Klimt’s work has been an impossibility for most - even when he was alive, his paintings went for small fortunes, and his commissions even more.
Though he loved the women he painted, their husbands paid huge sums for the honor. Galerie Miethke commissioned Klimt to do a portfolio of graphics inspired by his most notable paintings. This collection of color and black and white collotypes was titled Das Werk Gustav Klimts. Klimt took great care when creating these collotypes,
designing a unique chop mark for each image. Unlike Picasso and Chagall who experimented with various methods of printmaking, Klimt only created these collotypes. He was not a printmaker but realized the import of sharing his work with society.
Klimt died in Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia. He was buried at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. Numerous paintings were left unfinished.