Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907. Artist: Klimt, Gustav (1862-1918)

Gustav Klimt at 100: Painter. Photographer. Dress Maker.

Many of the eye-popping dresses featured in the artist's most famous and vibrant paintings were based on designs by his companion and muse, Emilie Louise Flöge.

Heritage Images/Heritage Images/Getty ImagesThe famously erotic, semi-psychedelic, sometimes gold-leafed paintings of bohemian artist Gustav Klimt once scandalized Austrian society. Today, of course, they’ve become museum-shop staples and dorm-room must-haves. The Austrian painter, who died 100 years ago this month, was known for his sensual portraits of women wearing shimmering, swirling dresses, but less so for the creative — and possibly romantic — partnership that brought the dresses to life. More Than Collaborators? Imagno/Getty ImagesMore Than Collaborators?The dresses now so closely associated with Klimt's work were a collaboration with Emilie Louise Flöge, a Vienna native Klimt met when she was just 18. Until Klimt's death in 1918, Emilie remained a close companion and perhaps a lover, and was a groundbreaking fashion designer with a radical streak in her own right. (Pictured: Emilie and Klimt in 1910.)
The Sisters Flöge Imagno/Getty ImagesThe Sisters FlögeKlimt met Emilie after his brother married her sister — and then promptly died. Klimt was left to care for the widow, which allowed him to spend plenty of time with the family Flöge and young Emilie. (Pictured: The three Flöge sisters, with Emilie at the far left, and Klimt in a rowboat in 1910.) Humble Beginnings Leemage/Corbis via Getty ImagesHumble BeginningsEmilie began her climb in the fashion world by working as a seamstress at her sister’s dressmaking school in Vienna. In 1899, the sisters won a dressmaking competition and went on to design a dress for a widely attended exhibition. (Pictured: Emilie, as painted by Klimt in 1902.) Designing Woman Imagno/Getty ImagesDesigning WomanEmilie, presumably in a dress of her own design, in about 1910.
Up The Fashion Ladder Imagno/Getty ImagesUp The Fashion LadderEmilie quickly established herself as a savvy businesswoman, opening Flöge Sisters, a haute couture fashion salon in Vienna. She traveled to Paris and London, studying the work of designers like Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, among others. Working Together Fine Art/Corbis via Getty ImagesWorking TogetherMany of the dresses that appear in Klimt's most celebrated works were created in concert with Emilie: He designed the patterns, she the fabric and cuts. Klimt Behind the Camera Imagno/Getty ImagesKlimt Behind the CameraKlimt took many photographs of these collaborations. Emilie's designs were influenced by the early Feminist movement: They were flowing, comfortable clothes for women (no corsets!) that hung loosely from the shoulders. In this picture by Klimt from 1906, Emilie wears a dress she designed.
Classic Images Imagno/Getty ImagesClassic ImagesEven with referrals from Klimt, who was at this point painting portraits of Vienna's high-society women, sales of Emilie's revolutionary fashions were not brisk. Here, Emilie as photographed by Klimt in 1906 or 1907. Sky-High Sales Imagno/Getty ImagesSky-High SalesKlimt was quite successful, but no one could have predicted how sought-after his works would eventually become. "Adele Bloch-Bauer II," pictured above and one of Klimt's most famous paintings, was a portrait of the wife of a wealthy Klimt patron. The Nazis snatched it from the family home during WWII but in 2006, the work was purchased at auction for nearly $88 million. The buyer? Oprah Winfrey, who eventually sold it for a reported $150 million. In the Salon Imagno/Getty ImagesIn the SalonEmilie in 1910, in the fashion salon she ran with her sister.
A Study in Sensuality Heritage Images/Heritage Images/Getty ImagesA Study in SensualityKlimt's sensual portraits were controversial at the time. In fact, his paintings for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna were considered pornographic and publicly criticized. He painted "Judith" (above) in 1901. A Private Life Imagno/Getty ImagesA Private LifeWhile Klimt reportedly fathered at least 14 children, it was Emilie who played the central role in his life. Ever protective of his privacy, Klimt didn't keep a journal, so the exact nature of his relationship with Emilie isn't known. But ... A Kiss May Be More Than Just a Kiss ... UniversalImagesGroup/Getty ImagesA Kiss May Be More Than Just a Kiss is widely believed that Klimt's most famous work, "The Kiss," which he began in 1907, is a depiction-slash-fantasy of a passionate moment with Emilie.
Sexy Stylings Heritage Images/Heritage Images/Getty ImagesSexy StylingsKlimt's erotic oil painting, "Danae," was completed in 1907. In the Garden Imagno/Getty ImagesIn the GardenEmilie wears a summer dress that she designed with Klimt. Photograph by Klimt, 1906. Portraits of Young Women Heritage Images/Heritage Images/Getty ImagesPortraits of Young WomenKlimt's "Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III)," was one of several he made of the young Viennese socialite and was one of the painter's last full-length portraits. This one was finished in 1917; Munk committed suicide six years before at the age of 24, after her fiance called off their engagement.
Klimt and Flög, Together Imagno/Getty ImagesKlimt and Flög, TogetherKlimt and Emliie circa 1908. Nearly 100 years later, Klimt's painting, "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," was purchased by Ronald Lauder for, according to press reports, $135 million. Last Words Imagno/Getty ImagesLast WordsKlimt died from a stroke, at 56, on February 6, 1918. His last words, reportedly, were, "Get Emilie." Legacy Imagno/Getty ImagesLegacyHalf of Klimt's estate went to his family; he gave the other half to Emilie.
War, Nazis, Fire Imagno/Getty ImagesWar, Nazis, FireIn the years after Klimt's death, Emilie became a leading designer in Vienna, but after the Nazis came to power, she lost most of her customers and was forced to shutter her salon. In the war's final days, fire ravaged her home, destroying important objects from Klimt's collection as well as Emilie's famed dresses. (Pictured: Emilie in 1910.) The Artist and His Cat Imagno/Getty ImagesThe Artist and His CatGustave Klimt, July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918.
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