Klimt's paintings have brought some of the highest prices recorded for individual works of art. In November 2003, Klimt's Landhaus am Attersee sold for $29,128,000, but that was soon eclipsed by prices paid for other Klimts. In 2006 the artist's Apple Tree I (ca. 1912) sold for $33 million and Birch Forest (1903) sold for $40.3 million. Both works had been recently restituted to the heirs of Adele Bloch-Bauer.
Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, the second of seven children. His father, Ernst Klimt, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver, which later influenced Gustav to add real gold on his later paintings. Klimt lived in poverty for most of his childhood, as work was scarce and the economy difficult for immigrants.
Klimt's work is distinguished by the elegant gold or coloured decoration, often of a phallic shape that conceals the more erotic positions of the drawings upon which many of his paintings are based. This can be seen in Judith I (1901), and in The Kiss (1907–1908), and especially in Danaë (1907). One of the most common themes Klimt utilized was that of the dominant woman, the femme fatale. Art historians note an eclectic range of influences contributing to Klimt's distinct style, including Egyptian, Minoan, Classical Greek, and Byzantine inspirations. His mature works are characterized by a rejection of earlier naturalistic styles, and make use of symbols or symbolic elements to convey psychological ideas and emphasize the "freedom" of art from traditional culture.
Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 and of the group's periodical Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring). He remained with the Secession until 1908.
In Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia, Klimt died. He was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. Numerous paintings were left unfinished.