Death and Life

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Death and Life
Tod und Leben
ArtistGustav Klimt
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions1,805 mm (71.1 in) × 2,005 mm (78.9 in)
LocationLeopold Museum

Death and Life (German: Tod und Leben, Italian: Morte e Vita) is an oil-on-canvas painting by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. The painting was started in 1908 and completed in 1915.[1] It idepicts an allegorical subject in an Art Nouveau (Modern) style. The painting measures 178 by 198 centimeters and is now housed at the Leopold Museum in Vienna.[2][3]


Death and Life (First Version); 1910–11, oil on canvas, 2,005 mm × 1,805 mm, Leopold Museum

In 1911 Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome.[4] In 1912 Klimt exhibited the painting at an art exhibition in Dresden.

Further exhibitions of the painting took place e.g. 1913 in Budapest and Mannheim, 1914 in Prague, 1916 in Berlin, 1917 in Stockholm, 1917 / 1918 in Copenhagen, 1918 in Zurich and from 1923 several times in Vienna, 1958 in Venice and 1965 in New York and London.[5]

Klimt made changes to the painting in 1915, after the first five exhibitions of the painting. He changed the background from gold-colored to grey and added some mosaics.


This is one of Klimt's central themes, central also to his time and to his contemporaries, among them Edvard Munch and Egon Schiele.[6][7] Klimt makes of it a modern dance of death, but unlike Schiele, he introduces a note of hope and reconciliation: Instead of feeling threatened by the figure of death, his human beings seem to disregard it.[8] The imagination of the artist is focused no longer on physical union, but rather on the expectation that precedes it. Perhaps this new found serenity is rooted in Klimt's own awareness of aging and closeness to death. But before the moment came he chose to depict nothing more than moments of intense pleasure or miraculous beauty and youth.[9][10]

Climate protest[edit]

Death and Life sprayed by Last Generation protest

On 15 November 2022 members of climate protest group Letzte Generation Österreich (Last Generation Austria) threw a black oily liquid onto the painting's protective glass, protesting "oil and gas drilling ... a death sentence to society"; one glued themself to the glass. The painting underneath remained undamaged.[11][12]


External video
video icon Klimt's Death and Life, Smarthistory[13]
  1. ^ "Gustav Klimt | Highlights | COLLECTION | Leopold Museum". Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  2. ^ "Gustav Klimt, Death and Life". Leopold Museum. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  3. ^ Bade, Patrick (2011-07-01). Gustav Klimt (in French). Parkstone International. ISBN 978-1-78042-283-1.
  4. ^ "Biography -". Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  5. ^ Klimt, Gustav; Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. (1966). Gustav Klimt: paintings and drawings: [exhibition], October-November 1965, Marlborough Fine Art Limited ... [et al.]. London: Marlborough Fine Art Ltd.
  6. ^ Lightfoot, D. Tulla (2019-02-21). The Culture and Art of Death in 19th Century America. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-3518-7.
  7. ^ Arnason, H. Harvard (1968). History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. H. N. Abrams.
  8. ^ Cavallaro, Dani (2018-01-14). Gustav Klimt: A Critical Reappraisal. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-3138-7.
  9. ^ "Klimt, Death and Life (video) | Austria | Khan Academy". Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  10. ^ Bade, Patrick (2011-07-01). Gustav Klimt. Parkstone International. ISBN 978-1-78042-294-7.
  11. ^ "Klimaaktion an Klimt-Gemälde" [Climate action on a Klimt painting]. (in German). 15 November 2022.
  12. ^ GRIESHABER, KIRSTEN (15 November 2022). "Climate activists throw liquid at Klimt painting in Vienna". Associated Press.
  13. ^ "Klimt's Death and Life". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved May 9, 2013.

External links[edit]