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Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862-February 6, 1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and a formative figure of international Modernism that emerged at the turn of the century. Klimt was also one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession, a group that worked to support young, emerging, unconventional artists while claiming no single artistic manifesto or style. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects. Though he received public commissions in his early years in Vienna, Klimt's work was met with criticism and rejection. Perceived as pornographic and radical, Klimt's treatment of the female body as his primary subject matter was at times openly erotic, but is now considered masterful. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Klimt entered what is known as his Golden Phase, which was marked by positive critical reaction and success. Many of his paintings from this period (which derived its name from the prominent use of gold leaf in his paintings) are considered beacons of the Art Nouveau period.
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Perhaps the greatest monument of the Vienna Secession, Vienna’s Secession Building was built to be an “architectural manifesto” for the group of artists working at the turn of the century in Austria’s capital. The crown jewel of the building, however, is Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze. Created in 1902 for the Secessionists’ Beethoven Exhibition, the frieze originally graced the entrance hall of the Secession Building, and was intended to be dismantled at the close of the exhibition. Luckily for art lovers, a collector purchased it in 1903 and subsequently sold it to the Austrian state in 1973. It has since been restored to the beautiful building, now occupying a room solely dedicated to Klimt. Composed of multiple allegorical figures and intricate details, the frieze illustrates the struggle of humanity, the pull between suffering and joy, and is easily one of Klimt’s most masterful accomplishments