Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter born in Vienna in 1862. He began (1883) as an artist-decorator in association with his brother Ernst and Franz Matsoh. In 1886-92, Klimt executed mural decorations for staircases at the Burgtheater and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna; these confirmed Klimt's eclecticism and broadened his range of historical references.
In January 1918 Klimt suffered a stroke in his apartment and after a short stay in hospital died from pneumonia on 6 February.
This picture (138 x 138 cm) was painted in Vienna in 1907 and commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy industrialist who had made his fortune in the sugar industry and sponsored the arts and supported Gustav Klimt. His wife Adele became the only model who was painted twice by Klimt when he completed a second picture of her, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, in 1912.
After having been looted by the Nazis, the picture was confiscated by the Austrian Governement at the end of the war. The heirs to the Bloch-Bauer estate sued the Austrian authorities and after a protracted battle won the case : in 2006 the canvas was shipped to the USA where it was sold in June for a rumored $ 135 million to Ronald Lauder, fabled art collector, heir of the cosmetic conglomerate Estée Lauder and honorary chairman of the MOMA who bought it for his Neue Galerie in New York City.