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Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was born in Baumgarten (near Vienna). The son of an immigrant gold engraver from Bohemia, Klimt and his family lived in poverty when he was a youth. Klimt earned a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in 1876, and while his early work proved to be mostly "academic," Klimt's talents soon emerged. He was awarded the Golden Order of Merit from Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I in 1888, and he became the leader of the Vienna Secession artistic group, developing a highly personal style that included erotic themes that some called pornographic. Commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the University of Vienna's Great Hall, Klimt's three paintings were never displayed on the ceiling (eventually being destroyed by the Nazis in 1945). Klimt's popularity surged at the turn of the century, and he became known for his freqent use of gold leaf, and for his erotic, female nudes. Klimt was influenced by many cultural styles, including Byzantine, Egyptian and Classical Greek. Following his death, Klimt's work set records for its selling prices: His 1907 portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, broke the previous record by a Picasso painting when it sold for $135 million in 2006--the highest price ever paid for a work of art. In all, his five highest-priced paintings sold for $327 million.
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