Gustav Klimt was a lightening rod for controversy during his relatively short lifetime (1862-1918). He was loved by his patrons, revered by his fellow artists and reviled by the conservative art establishment in Vienna. Today, his paintings stand out as some of the most important artworks ever to come out of Austria, along with those of Egon Schiele and Oscar Kokoshka.
In 1897, Klimt helped found the avant-garde Secessionist movement in Vienna, which rebelled against the rigid art traditions of the day. Despite his exceptional talent, Klimt's modern paintings had many detractors. He eventually withdrew from the public arena to concentrate on wealthy female patrons who were eager to have their portraits painted by the larger-than-life artist.
Klimt had a well-deserved reputation as a notorious womanizer, yet he was able to capture the nobility in the women he painted. There is no better example of this skill than his Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I from 1907. Painted during his "golden period", the portrait reflects Klimt's keen interest in Byzantine mosaics, Egyptian motifs and Japanese print-making. It also depicts Adele as her wealthy husband desired her to be seen, like an Empress.
Gustav Klimt's second portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer from 1912 reflects his growing influence from the Impressionists as well as the German Expressionists. Klimt's distinctive landscape also reveal a similar refinement of design and unique patterns that are found in many of his portraits.