Born in Austria in 1862, Gustav Klimt is known for rebelling against the traditional art of his time in favor of a highly ornamental style that was erotic in nature. This style is best demonstrated in his most famous painting, The Kiss (1908). He trained as an architectural painter with Hans Makart at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. Klimt, Franz Matsch, and Klimt’s brother, Ernst, soon put their talents together and received numerous commissions as a team referred to as “Company of Artists”. His career began painting interior ceilings and murals in several of Austria’s public buildings.
As his fame grew, he became the president and founding member of the Vienna Secession, a group dedicated to helping unconventional artists exhibit their work. The group did not encourage any particular style of art. In 1894, he was commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the University of Vienna’s Great Hall with three paintings. When they, entitled Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence (1900) were completed, they were considered to be pornographic with radical themes and it was soon decided that they would never be installed and he received no further commissions. He continued to upset the public with paintings including Nudita Verita (1899). Around the end of the 1800s, he began using gold leaf in many of his paintings including Judith I (1901). At the time of his death in 1918, he was rumored to have had multiple affairs and had fathered 14 children. On a side note, Birch Forest (1903) sold in 2006 for more than $40 million.