Klinger was born in Leipzig and studied in Karlsruhe and Berlin. Like many of his fellow students Klinger was at first deeply influenced by the symbolism of the German artists Böcklin, and Feuerbach, and to a certain extent by the English Pre-Raphaelite school. All these artists shared a common interest in mysticism and religion which they conveyed through their paintings. Klinger's work contains similar mystical allusions, through his use of allegory, anecdote, metaphor and frequent references to Greek mythology. He concentrated almost exclusively on the graphic arts, producing prints which often evoke a dark, private, world of fantasy.