Death and Life is an oil painting by Gustav Klimt that serves as an allegory to symbolize the cycle of human life. Completed in 1915, it was awarded the first prize at the International Art Exhibition in Rome the following year. The painting depicts two distinct parts – one for death and another for life, with a clear contrast between them.
On one side of the painting is death, which dominates most of it with bluish tones. Human figures on this side are portrayed huddled together and struggling to survive against overpowering forces; such as cyphers and skeletons. On the other side is life portrayed much brighter with decorative patterns intertwined in beautiful forms that exudes hope and liveliness . The human figures depicted here seems happy living amidst fields of colourful flowers.
Klimt described “Death and Life” as his most prominent figurative art piece, demonstrating his unique Art Nouveau style characterized by symmetrical bold forms, assimilation of line, organic rhythm throughout intricately entwined bodies with abundant patterns. This masterpiece has stood out among Klimt’s famous works which have sold at high prize auctions worldwide.