Gustav Klimt

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Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was a symbolist painter from Austria, and one of the most controversial artists of the early twentieth century. His works were broadly criticised for their fantastical imagery and their bold, decorative style; seen most prominently in pieces such as The Kiss (1907-08) which displays frank eroticism. Whilst Klimt is most prolific in his pieces portraying women, he began focusing on landscapes in the late 1890’s

Gustav Klimt’s work has been described by critics as seeking a form of ‘elsewhere’ and a desire for distance; his isolation is perhaps explained by the crumbling Habsburg monarch and First World War occurring during this time, although WW1 itself did not commence until 1914. He spent his summers in the picturesque Salzkammergut, just outside Salzburg, where he was able to spend days painting landscapes from direct observation. Gustav Klimt’s father Ernst died shortly before he began focusing solely on landscapes, and the family became financially dependant on him, which helps to explain his desire for escapism. Klimt produced ‘Farmhouse with Birch Trees (young birches)’ in 1900 using oil paint on a 31.5” x 31.9” canvas. His work was based on light, openness and patterns of nature, rather than the formal, linear qualities of the narrative, mythology work he had previously produced. He was strongly interested in nature and had wider concerns with biological growth and the cycle of life, which is increasingly apparent in his work.

Klimt’s knowledge of impressionism and neo- impressionism acquired in art school made the techniques used in ‘Farmhouse with Birch Trees’ possible, though the strokes are quite different. It was his intention to reflect the infinite multitude of life in his brushstrokes- their gestures, shapes and colours, which serves to explain the subtleties within this piece. The lilac blue’s and deep greens protrude the background at all different angles- their spontaneity truly depicts nature. Pale pink, yellow...
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