Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna in Austria-Hungary, the second of seven children—three boys and four girls. His mother, Anna Klimt (née Finster), had an unrealized ambition to be a musical performer. His father, Ernst Klimt the Elder, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver. All three of their sons displayed artistic talent early on. Klimt's younger brothers were Ernst Klimt and Georg Klimt.
Klimt lived in poverty while attending the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), where he studied architectural painting until 1883. He revered Vienna's foremost history painter of the time, Hans Makart. Klimt readily accepted the principles of a conservative training; his early work may be classified as academic. In 1877 his brother, Ernst, who, like his father, would become an engraver, also enrolled in the school. The two brothers and their friend, Franz Matsch, began working together and by 1880 they had received numerous commissions as a team that they called the "Company of Artists". They also helped their teacher in painting murals in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Klimt began his professional career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings on the Ringstraße, including a successful series of "Allegories and Emblems".
In 1888 Klimt received the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria for his contributions to murals painted in the Burgtheater in Vienna. He also became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna. In 1892 Klimt's father and brother Ernst both died, and he had to assume financial responsibility for his father's and brother's families. The tragedies also affected his artistic vision and soon he would move towards a new personal style.
In the early 1890s Klimt met Emilie Louise Flöge who was to be his companion until the end of his life. His painting, The Kiss (1907–08), is thought to be an image of them together. He designed many costumes she created and modeled in his works.
Students may select a partial torso or head from a magazine, cut it out and then paste it onto a large piece of black construction paper. Then the teacher can show a power point of a select group of Klimt's works and I mean select. Not all of Klimt's paintings are appropriate for an elementary classroom. Talk to the children about his design choices and how he used color and pattern to define figures. Then pass out those gel pens, metallic markers and brilliant colored pencils that you've been saving for a special drawing project. Students may then design their own patterned surface with these on top of the black paper in order to give their partial figure a completed Klimt like portrait.
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