The life and work of the Austrian Secessionist artist Gustav Klimt is celebrated today with a Google Doodle. His iconic painting of a couple kissing is the theme of the clever google campaign .The doodle commemorates the 150th birth anniversary of the artist by reproducing one of his best loved works, ‘The Kiss’. Some of Gustav Klimt’s paintings rank amongst the most expensive in the world. His painting of Adele Bloch was the first to reach the 135 million dollar mark. At the time it was the most expensive painting in the world. The ‘The Kiss’ used in todays google doodle was created in 1907-08 oil and gold leaf on canvas. It is a painting that many believe to be Gustav Klimt’s only self-portrait.
Klimt was born on July 14, 1862 in Vienna. He was the son of a goldsmith and spent much of his childhood in poverty. He trained at the Vienna School of Decorative Arts. He had a liking for gold, silver and marble in his creations but not all his patrons could afford his expensive creations. Not only was Klimt’s art radical and occasionally controversial, he was also a part of a group known as the Wiener Werkstatte and the leading painter in the Secessionist movement.
Klimt was reputed to have many lovers and one of them was Emilie Floege, a designer. Her work is believed to have been depicted in many of Klimt’s works including ‘The Kiss’. Gustav Klimt is also known for his erotic paintings of nude women. Quite like fellow Austrian Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt brought sexuality into the public sphere. He was once forced to take down a particularly controversial painting that showed a naked pregnant woman.
Maria Altmann who in 2006 successfully reclaimed five paintings by Gustav Klimt, from Austrian museums that were seized by the Nazis in 1938, has died age 94. The case was one in a string of high profile disputed ownership cases that has rocked the art world in the last decade. The successful outcome resulted in a sale at Christie’s realizing 180 million pounds.(330.7 million dollars).
The Klimts, three landscapes and a portrait, were part of a group of five reunited with Maria Altmann by the Austrian government. The Nazis plundered the paintings along with other arts treasures owned by this prominent Jewish family who were friends and patrons of the Vienna Secession elite. The government of Austria had stubbornly refused to give them back but after seven-year campaign by Altmann they came to symbolize the international effort to seek property-rights justice for the surviving victims of Nazi crimes. Maria’s uncle, Ferdinand, was the original owner of the Klimts. Two of them are portraits of his wife Adele. Bloch-Bauer fled his home in Austria in 1938 when the Nazis took over and seized his property,this included the paintings. The Nazi government placed the Klimts in various Austrian art museums, where they remained until Austria acknowledged that they legally belonged to Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s heirs.
Klimt died in Vienna on February 6, 1918 after contracting Spanish flu during the 1918 flu pandemic.