5 Memorable Paintings by Gustav Klimt on His Birthday

Today would be the artist’s 153rd birthday.

Josef Anton Trčka, Portrait Gustav Klimt (1914). Public domain.

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter whose work is beloved by audiences the world over and fetches high sums at auctionWhile the price tag may or may not be justified, Klimt’s paintings have their fans. Today, on what would be the artist’s 153rd birthday, we celebrate his enduring popularity with five favorites from his oeuvre.

Related: Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer Paintings to Be Reunited at Neue Galerie


Gustav Klimt. Detail of Medicine from the series Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence (1901).
Photo: via Wikipedia.

1. Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence (1900 – 1907)
From 1900-1907, Gustav Klimt was commissioned to complete a series of ceiling paintings for the University of Vienna’s Great Hall. Critics, faculty members, and a public prosecutor accused the works—titled Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence—of appealing to cultural taboos, subsequently tarnishing Klimt’s reputation. Today, only preliminary sketches and a few photographs of the paintings survive.


Gustav Klimt. The Tree of Life, Expectation and Fulfillment (1905).
Photo: Pictify.

2. The Tree of Life, Expectation and Fulfillment (1905-1911)
Klimt was commissioned by Belgian financier Adolphe Stoclet and his wife to create a frieze for the dining hall of their Brussels palace in 1905. The palace was built by Josef Hoffman and exists as a perfect example of the Wiener Werkstatte’s concept of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). Klimt’s marvelous mosaic pieces match the aesthetic of Hoffman’s grand design. The panels were hung along three walls in the palace, and nine of his study sketches are on display at the Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art (MAK) in Vienna.


Gustav Klimt. The Maiden (1913).
Photo: Wikipedia.

3. The Maiden (1913)
Bookending Klimt’s later works, The Maiden (1913) and The Bride (1918), which went unfinished due to the artist’s death, have expressive and sketch-like qualities. The delicate lines of The Maiden lend the work movement and fluidity. The painting is part of the Narodni Galerie’s permanent collection in Prague.

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss (Lovers) (1907–1908). Courtesy of Galerie Belvedere.

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss (Lovers) (1907–1908). Courtesy of Galerie Belvedere.

4. The Kiss (1907 – 1908)
Popularly known as The Lovers, The Kiss is widely considered to be one of the finest displays of Klimt’s Golden Period. In opposition to the harsh reception of his ceiling paintings at the University of Vienna, The Kiss, which was completed shortly thereafter, was met with immediate acclaim. It is now permanently housed as the centerpiece of Gustav Klimt’s largest collection of works in the Austrian Gallery.

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907). Courtesy of the Neue Galerie.

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907). Courtesy of the Neue Galerie.

5. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I / The Woman in Gold (1907)
Klimt spent three years painting Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of wealthy industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer and the only model to be painted twice by the artist (again in 1912). In 2006, after a six-year-long legal battle with the Austrian authorities that gained significant media attention, Bloch-Bauer’s niece successfully reclaimed ownership of her aunt’s portrait. It is currently on view at the Neue Gallery through September 7.

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