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Gustav Klimt and the Belvedere

There are a number of links between the iconic artist Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) and the Belvedere in Vienna, which houses the world’s greatest collection of Austrian art. It was on the initiative of Klimt and other artists that the Moderne Galerie was founded in 1903, the institution that has evolved into the Belvedere. The aim was to create a place for contemporary Austrian art and to present this in an international context. The Belvedere’s curatorial work and exhibitions are based on this premise to this day.

World’s Largest Collection of Klimt’s Paintings

With twenty-four works, the Belvedere holds the world’s largest collection of oil paintings by this iconic artist, including the two masterpieces from his Golden Period, Kiss (Lovers) and Judith, major portraits (Sonja Knips, Fritza Riedler, and Johanna Staude etc.), landscapes, and allegorical depictions. The collection also includes one of Klimt’s sketchbooks and his monumental Beethoven Frieze at the Vienna Secession. 

Gustav Klimt’s masterpieces are on permanent display at the Upper Belvedere. In this comprehensive collection, Klimt’s development can be traced from his early explorations of Historicism through to Secessionism and finally to his late work, which reveals the influence of the Fauves and the younger generation of Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele. 

Highlight: Kiss (Lovers)

The collection’s undisputed highlight is Klimt’s world-famous masterpiece the Kiss (Lovers), an allegorical depiction of lovers locked together in an embrace. Covering a surface of almost four square metres, Klimt’s personal style is impressively conveyed. Always receptive to new artistic accomplishments and ideas, this work combines design principles from Japanese art, inspiration from Byzantine mosaics and medieval panel paintings as well as the influence of Auguste Rodin, George Minne, and Edvard Munch. Through its exquisite ornamentation and its silver and gold applications, the couple seem removed from the perils of earthly existence and suffering. Kiss (Lovers) marks the culmination of the phase in Klimt’s art in which he explored the contrast between naturalistic, delicately painted passages of skin, and a planar, ornamental approach. The role of ornament was to communicate the pictures’ symbolic messages.

Gustav Klimt Biography


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