Vienna celebrates Gustav Klimt

Vienna has dedicated 2012 to Gustav Klimt, the Austrian Symbolist painter whose 150th anniversary of birth was on 6 February. To celebrate the life and work of the artist who spent most of his life in Vienna, ten of the capital’s museums are organising a host of activities in his honour throughout 2012.

The Belvedere displays its extensive collection of Klimt’s work, the Albertina presents 170 of his drawings, and the Leopold museum dedicates an exhibition to the artist’s private correspondence. Seven other art institutions in Vienna are staging Klimt exhibitions until the end of the year – for more details see www.wien.info/en.

Born in 1862 in Baumgarten – a modern-day Viennese suburb – Klimt was a divisive figure whose art work was adored for its revolutionary, decorative and uncompromising style but scorned for its overt sexuality.

In 1897 he became one of the founders of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) whose members, tired of the prevailing conservatism, were united in their desire to push the boundaries of art outside the confines of academic tradition.

The artist later found himself centre-stage in the important cultural and societal role played by Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, and he became a famous and sought-after portraitist in high society circles.

Klimt died in Vienna 1918 but works such as “The Kiss” and the “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” – which sold for €135 million in 2006 almost 100 years after it was painted – assure his legacy as one of the world’s most popular artists.