Gustav Klimt was born near Vienna in 1862. He is noted for his sensuous female portraiture with special praise given to those painting during the Golden Phase a period of his career where many of his pieces were adorned with gold leaf.
After leaving the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in 1833 where he studied architectural painting, Klimt began his professional career painting murals on the walls and ceilings of large public buildings. In 1888, Klimt received the Golden Order of Merit from the Emperor of Austria for his contributions to mural painting in Vienna.
A turning point came in 1894 when Klimt was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. The three paintings he produced caused public outrage from key thought leaders political, aesthetic and religious for their radical, sexualised themes. The paintings were never placed in the Great Hall and Klimt never accepted a public commission again.
By 1897, Klimt was a founding member and president of the Vienna Secession a group set up to promote unconventional young artists. During this time, Klimt began to refine his style and artistic focus. With long summers spent at Attersee he produced a series of landscape paintings and began to focus heavily on the female form.
It was when Klimt entered his Golden Phase that the artist found critical success. During this time he painted the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer in 1907 and more famously, The Kiss in 1908. At the time of his death in 1918, Klimt had become the most sought after portrait painter of high society women.