Kokoschka attended the Kunstgewerbeschule or School of Applied Arts in Vienna between 1904 and 1908. The school was heavily influenced by the teachings of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and his followers, who had broken away from the Vienna Secession in 1905 to form the Klimt Group. Their notion of the Gesamtunstwerk, the unification of a whole range of applied arts such as book design, furniture, interior design and architecture to produce all-encompassing artistic projects, was readily taken up by Kokoschka.
Klimt’s influence on Kokoschka’s early work was significant, and he even helped the young artist to exhibit The Dreaming Youths at the Kunstschau, or Art Exhibition, a major avant-garde show held in the summer of 1908. In recognition of Klimt’s formative influence on his work, Kokoschka dedicated The Dreaming Youths to the older artist, ‘in admiration’.