Monday, April 27, 2009

Landscapes of Gustav Klimt

We all know Gustav Klimt from his decorative Art Nouveau paintings, such as "The Kiss," involving gold leaf and mosaic effects. It might come as a surprise to learn that he was also a plein air painter.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire that he grew up in was a cultural center for music, politics, architecture and psychology as well as art. Klimt was the son of an engraver and was influenced by everyone from Freud to Monet and Van Gogh.

His landscapes are quite decorative, flattened and patterned, as opposed to representational. He is said to have used binoculars when choosing a scene to paint. He includes little or no sky, focusing instead on earth, wood and water.

A Symbolist, he painted an apple tree as "The Tree of Life," a house as an archetypal House, a lake or swamp as the primordial source of life. The elements and colors in the paintings are arranged in a naturalistic harmony, like a hymn. He used a square format which implied tranquility and stability, and his pointillistic brush strokes implied infinity without resorting to the use of perspective.

These fairly large (2-3 foot) paintings are a combination of plein air and in-studio work, and a combination of exterior scenes and inner visions.

- Sarah Judson

Johannes Dobai, Gustav Klimt - The Landscapes, Verlag Galerie Welz, Salzburg, 1981

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