Austria prepares to honor Gustav Klimt

Some 150 years after being born the second of seven children to a struggling Bohemian gold engraver and an unfulfilled musical performer, artist Gustav Klimt land his legacy are going to be celebrated in grand style by his native Austria.

In honor of the sesquicentennial of his birth, Vienna’s biggest museums – led by the Belvedere, the Albertina and the Leopold Museum – are proposing no fewer than nine exhibits during the course of the year, all promising new insights into the artist’s life.

“More works by Gustav Klimt will be on display in Vienna in 2012 than ever before: from his decoration work in the Burgtheater and the Kunsthistorisches Museum to his largely unknown drawings and world-renowned paintings like The Kiss,” Vienna’s tourism board has already advertised.

Klimt was the co-founder of the turn-of-the-century Secession movement and one of Austria’s key modern artists alongside Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.

His works continue to fetch incredible prices, nearly a century after his death from a stroke in 1918.

Five of his paintings – Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907), Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) , The Apple Tree I (ca. 1912), Birch Forest (1903) and Houses in Unterach on Lake Atter (1916) – were seized by the Nazis from a Jewish businessman and later ended up in the possession of the Austrian government following World War II.

Many decades later they were returned to a descendant of the original owner and sold, collectively netting more than $325 million.

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