I had never heard of Gustav Klimt.

A news clipping was telling me he was an Austrian artist who died in 1918 and the last portrait he painted was a “masterpiece.”

Masterpiece, a curious word. What does that mean? Then I see the painting, “Dame mit Fächer” (“Lady with a Fan”) sold at an auction at Sotheby’s in London for 85.3 million pounds. That’s $108.4 million. (That includes an additional charge known as a “buyer’s premium.”) The buyer was a collector from Hong Kong.

I assume a lot goes into the definition of “masterpiece” but millions of dollars certainly helps.

That sale price beat the previous European auction record of $104.3 million at Sotheby’s in 2010 for Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture “Walking Man I.” Another name I didn’t recognize.

None of these artists are around to enjoy the richness of their talents. (Another ingredient of a masterpiece, I guess, is how it stands the test of time.)

The news story included a small photo of Klimt’s painting – in black and white and too small to appreciate the full oil on canvas. An online search tells me the painting shows a young woman against a China-influenced backdrop with a flying phoenix, a long-legged crane and a golden pheasant and lotus blossoms. Her silk robe is sliding off her shoulder but she holds a fan hiding her bosom. (Klimt is noted for his portraits of women in the early 20th century.)

Sotheby’s goes further to say the portrait is “… the realisation of his mature artistic vision. It combines rich patterns and oriental motifs with the delicate and luminous human touch that makes Klimt’s portraits so sought-after. Technically accomplished, it reveals the artist exploring a new approach to colour and form whilst retaining the remarkable expressivity that elevates his portraiture above that of his contemporaries.”

He has other artwork that has sold for millions of dollars but I had to go online to get a closer look at this one, where you can enjoy the painting – for free.

The painting is an explosion of color and interesting but not anything I’d hang on my wall. But that really doesn’t matter. It’s more about who painted it, right? And I’d say that is a key factor in the making of a masterpiece. Especially to collectors.

Please do not think I am scoffing at the word “masterpiece.” Art is a very personal thing, I guess. And value has a lot to do with the sentiment it brings, and who created the work of art is important. Which is why I’d bet many of you also have masterpieces in your home. I know I do.

In our living room there’s an appaloosa horse standing proud on a grassy hillside – oil on canvas painted by my dad when I was a teen.

On the same wall is a large, framed Picasso print, an image by a famous artist but more valuable because my wife bought it in Barcelona in 1978 when she was 18, a trip she will never forget.

There’s childhood artwork and mementoes from every son propped on shelves across the house. And so many photos, many taken by my wife who understands their importance. (Yes, they are artwork with purpose and message.)

I have a shoebox full of greeting cards hand-crafted by my sister. There’s also cards from family and friends, all saved for their memorable messages. Most important they include signatures that speak to me. Like a signed painting.

When you take away the artist, the creator, the designer, the giver, you still can appreciate the beauty in art. But when you add the humanity, the spirit, the passion, the purpose, and the love … well then you’ve got a masterpiece.

Our house is full of them. They won’t sell for billions in any auction. Or even hundreds. But know this … they are priceless.

• Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His PaperWork email is lonnyjcain@gmail.com. Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.