A quarter of all of Gustav Klimt’s paintings were landscapes. When I finally saw them all at an exhibition at the Sterling Clark Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts, what struck me most was their flatness — even Bonnard’s landscapes recedes more into space. Klimt did not paint panoramas, but rather simple motifs: gardens, meadows with fruit trees, farmhouses surrounded by lush vegetation, and details of the lake and its shoreline.  Perhaps it is not surprising that the landscapes appeared flat, considering the decorative nature of his other paintings, but it soon became apparent that something else was at work here.  Klimt used a variety of viewfinders; initially, a simple piece of cardboard with a hole cut out of it, and later an ivory plate or an opera glass. [austria.info/uk/art-culture]

 

He also used a telescope. He would stand on one side of the lake and look through it to the opposite shore. The telescope made the landscape appear flat. Klimt used the pointillist’s mark to create his landscapes. However, he did not use it in the same way as the pointillists did, to optically mix colors. His landscapes were organized into blocks of colors and shapes.

Klimpt with Telescope

Klimpt with Telescope

 

When you examine one of Klimt’s landscapes close up, a couple of things become apparent. First, he leaves a fair amount of the canvas showing through. And, he frequently outlines things, like the edge of flowers or leaves. I have seen Joseph Raffael do a similar thing in his watercolors. It seems that, especially with watercolors, if you let the edge of, say a leaf, just be the place where the color ends, your whole sense of the leaf as an object disappears, something seems quite off about it. Reinforcing the edge with a line helps it hold its space.  This was most obvious in Klimt’s paintings of flowers.

Gustave Klimt

Here is a short video of Joseph Raffael fine tuning one of his watercolors.

 

 

 

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