Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and the leader of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d'art. In addition to the figurative works he is best known for, and which include allegories and portraits, he also painted stunning landscapes.
Early in his artistic career, he was a successful painter of architectural decorations and, as he developed a more personal style, his work was the subject of controversy that culminated when the paintings he completed around 1900 for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna were criticized as pornographic. He subsequently accepted no more public commissions but achieved a new success with the paintings of his "golden phase", many of which include gold leaf.
Klimt was a master of symbolism and embedded allusions to sexuality and the human psyche in his rich, lavishly decorated figures and patterns. The messages—often of pleasure, sexual liberation, and human suffering— were thinly veiled. His bolder, more risqué pieces, depicting voluptuous nudes and entwined bodies, scandalized the Viennese elites. Even so, the city’s establishment still adored his work and frequently commissioned him to paint their portraits. His peers were similarly enthralled with his style, recognizing his groundbreaking injection of sexuality, atmosphere, and expression into figurative painting.