Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter, most widely identified with the Art Nouveau movement. He created many renowned works, such as The Kiss (1907-08), Judith and the Head of Holofernes (1901), Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907), and Danaë (1907), among others.
Klimt was born in Baumgarten, Austria, on July 14, 1862, the son of a gold-engraving father and a musically-inclined mother. Like his parents, the young Klimt was artistically talented and developed a skill for painting conventional architectural decorations. As he matured, his artistic direction evolved into painting landscapes, allegorical portraits, and seductive pieces featuring nude women. In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to complete three paintings for the University of Vienna. The three works, Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence, were to be displayed on the ceiling of the school’s Great Hall. However, the paintings featured nude subjects and were panned by some critics for their “pornographic” content of “perverted excess,” and subsequently they were never displayed on the Great Hall’s ceiling. The paintings were destroyed by retreating Nazi forces in 1945.
Klimt’s “golden phase” was marked by the creation of several notable works, many of which were finished with gold leaf. These pieces include Pallas Athene (1898), Judith I, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and The Kiss. During this time, Klimt became associated with the Austrian Secessionist Movement, which was founded in 1897 by Austrian modern artists who separated themselves from the academic Association of Austrian Artists. Living a fairly secluded existence, Klimt focused on his paintings, once saying, “There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night… Whoever wants to know something about me… ought to look carefully at my pictures.” Klimt passed away at the age of 55 in 1918.
While Klimt may have thought little of himself, officials at the Austrian Mint certainly think there is something special about the celebrated painter. In 2012, the Mint commemorated the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth with the commencement of Klimt and His Women – a five-year series of 50-Euro 0.986 fine gold coins featuring five of the artist’s most famous works. These include a 2012 coin depicting Adele Bloch-Bauer; a 2013 coin adorned by a reproduction of The Expectation (1904); a masterful recreation of Judith II on the 2014 entry and “Medicine (1901),” which was the topic of the 2015 Austrian 50-Euro gold coin. On April 13, 2016, the Austrian Mint began delivering “The Kiss.”
The obverse of The Kiss 2016 gold Austrian coin was designed by Thomas Pesendorfer and bears a portrait of Klimt and Emilie Flöge, the artist’s lifetime companion. Klimt, seen standing with his arms crossed, wears his trademark smock and bears a proud grin as he looks just off-center from the viewer. Just behind Klimt is Flöge, who appears approximately twice as large as Klimt. This is symbolically significant, as many scholars believe Flöge is the subject of many Klimt works, including the impassioned female featured in The Kiss. On the obverse are the words REPUBLIK OSTERREICH (Austria) atop of the portrait, the denomination 50 EURO below Flöge and across the lower portion of Klimt, and the date 2016, inscribed in the lower-left section of the square-shaped inset featuring Flöge.
Helmut Andexlinger designed the reverse of The Kiss coin, which offers a painstakingly faithful replication of the central features in Klimt’s iconic work. The coin primarily profiles the faces of the two lovers, who are widely believed to be Klimt and Flöge. The relief of the coin does incredible justice to the subject’s more prominent features, including the lovers’ fingers, their arms, and several elements on the woman’s face, including her lips, nose, and eyelids.
On the lower-left side of the reverse design is the letter “T,” which stands for the last letter in Klimt’s surname. Each of the preceding four coins bear the other letters in the artist’s last name, beginning with a “K” on the 2012 Adele Bloch-Bauer coin. A collection of all five Klimt and His Women Austrian coins would spell out the artist’s name if they were placed reverse-side up in chronological order from 2012 through 2016.
Designer(s): Thomas Pesendorfer is the Chief Engraver of the Austrian Mint. His award-winning design for the Vienna Philharmonic bullion coin is known all over the world (View Designer’s Profile). Helmut Andexlinger is at the forefront of a younger generation of coin designers. His innovative work with computer technology has resulted in many award-winning coins for the Mint (View Designer’s Profile). Both men studied at the Fachschule für Metalldesign in Steyr, Austria.
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