Tag Archives: holiday

Gustav Klimt – Birch Trees: dancer of the wood

25 Mar

In his portraits of trees and flowers, Klimt conveyed a sense of lyricism and mystery that nature possesses in abundance, but holds it secret to most, choosing rather to reveal her charms to the eye capable of recognising her Beauty.

Gustav Klimt, Farm House with Birch Trees, 1900, 81 x 80 cm, oil on canvas

These four damsels on the meadow in Klimt’s painting are so beautiful and so silent. Never eager for a conversation, they hesitate to speak to me, but they are not proud, but shy, or so the swallows have told me. And how white their gowns are, how fragile their frames; eastern breeze carrying the sound of a distant flute might blow them away! What mythical land have these enchantresses escaped from, I wonder. The gentle grass is swaying on the melody of Debussy and little blue flowers are batting their eyelashes vivaciously, all that is alive and breathes is awaken at the arrival of the mischievous Faun. Oh, yes, the Faun must wander these paths for sure. The birches’ entire bodies tremble, the little green leaves sigh, as they hear the Faun approaching, for they know that, once again, his flute playing will send them into the wildest dream. Dewdrops on the grass are trembling as the sun starts shining slowly and shyly through the woods announcing the day. The birds awaken as the dawn gives birth to morning; fresh, green and glorious. In a step or two, the wild Faun leaves, biding farewell to the birches as they descend into sweet dreams. Tired from their dancing in the dawn, they enjoy indolence during the day, and so a wandered through the woods might assume that they are serious by nature.

Here is a lovely poem by Arthur Ketchum called “The Spirit of the Birch”:

I am the dancer of the wood —
I shimmer in the solitude;
Men call me Birch Tree, yet I know
In other days it was not so.
I am a Dryad slim and white
Who danced too long one summer night,
And the Dawn found and prisoned me!
Captive I moan my liberty,
But let the wood wind flutes begin
Their Elfin music, faint and thin,
I sway, I bend, retreat, advance,
And evermore — I dance! I dance!

In Vienna, Klimt’s artistic focus was on humans as he diligently painted lavish nudes and portraits for rich aristocrats, but in summer months spent in Litzlberg at Lake Attersee he gave himself to nature and painted rich orchards with apple trees, farm houses and chickens, plain and pretty garden flowers, and trees. On his holiday, Klimt would arise early in the morning, around 6 o’clock, and indulge in long walks through the meadows and nearby woods. Were the nymphs the ones to lure him, or was it the smell of wild flowers? So, just like Faun, Klimt tastes the sweetness and secrets of nature at dawn, and these moments became a part of his art. The locals there called him “Waldschrat”: “someone who lives in the woods on his own”. It seems that Klimt and I share the same idea of indolence; for me it isn’t about doing nothing, it’s to stop and ponder, gaze and breathe.

Gustav Klimt, Farm Garden (Flower Garden), 110 x 110 cm, oil on canvas

For nearly all of these “nature-paintings” he did during his holidays, Klimt chose interesting canvases; nearly all are perfectly square shaped. Usually, we tend to think of landscapes painted on rectangle shaped-canvases, with an emphasis on the horizontal line, but Klimt’s landscapes are something entirely different. He doesn’t paint nature from a viewer’s perspective, he walks right into its world, he paints it whilst surrounded by it. For this artist-Faun, nature is sensuous and alive, covered with veils and veils of mysteries… This vision of nature reminded me of a poem in prose called “Dawn” by Arthur Rimbaud:

I have kissed the summer dawn. Before the palaces, nothing moved. The water lay dead. Battalions of shadows still kept the forest road. (…) My first adventure, in a path already gleaming With a clear pale light, Was a flower who told me its name. I laughted at the blond Wasserfall That threw its hair across the pines: On the silvered summit, I came upon the goddess. Then one by one, I lifted her veils. In the long walk, waving my arms. Across the meadow, where I betrayed her to the cock. In the heart of town she fled among the steeples and domes, And I hunted her, scrambling like a beggar on marble wharves. Above the road, near a thicket of laurel, I caught her in her gathered veils, And smelled the scent of her immense body. Dawn and the child fell together at the bottom of the wood. When I awoke, it was noon.”

In “Farm House with Birch Trees” Klimt created a sense of depth; the meadow seems to stretch endlessly upwards, the birches are not painted with their tree tops and leaves but left as slim white lines, slightly crooked, and creating a rhythm in the way they are placed in a diagonal line, surrounded with different layers of flowers, reminiscent of some of Hiroshige’s plum orchards. Klimt is meticulously focused on details and his landscapes have little in common with the sketch-like laid-back styles of Monet. At the same time this painting seems to me like a moment frozen in time, still and ornamental, flickering with details and colours; and at the same time it is a portal to the world of dreams, a world where the Faun, nymphs and flowers await you to join their celebration of indolence and taste the never ending flow of honey, music and laughter. Oh, how I wish to go there! Wait, I can hear the music, how it lures me: Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun“.

Goodbye to Berlin

31 Aug

1914. Friedrichstrasse - KirchnerKirchner, Friedrichstrasse, 1914

Last three weeks I was in Berlin, visiting my family. I haven’t felt so good, so full of energy and inspiration, so rapturous and alive for a long time! I came to Berlin with thoughts of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Christiane F. and Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, Marlene Dietrich, Christopher Isherwood and his Weimar Berlin, industrial rock sound of the Einstürzende Neubauten, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and other expressionists. Even though I’ve been to Berlin a few times, this time seems to have been magical. I’ve enjoyed every moment. I’ve seen such diversities and vibrancy, a bunch of individualists, drunken people, an eclectic mix of cultures, architectural splendor; from frightening and modern building on Potsdamer Platz to lovely residential buildings on Wedding to the beautiful Schloss Charlottenburg. I think I left a little piece of my soul somewhere out there, on those beautiful cobble streets and wide avenues.

I’ve visited the Alte Nationalgalerie and I’ve seen the ‘Im-Ex’ exhibition, along with the museum’s permanant collection of German Romanticism and lots of other things. A few painting caught my attention the most, among them the works of Kirchner, especially the one called ‘Potsdamer Platz’. His dynamic brush strokes and vibrant colours continue to amaze me. Here are some other artworks that I’ve seen. Who knows, maybe I’ll write about one of them soon. Or maybe I won’t.

1914. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Potsdamer PlatzErnst Ludwig Kirchner – Potsdamer Platz, 1914

The Boulevard Montmartre at NightBoulevard Montmartre, effet de nuit by Pissarro, 1898

1879. Chez le père Lathuille - Edouard Manet Chez le père Lathuille – Edouard Manet, 1879

1879. In the Conservatory by ManetIn the Conservatory by Manet, 1879

1868. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Bohemian (or Lise the Bohemian)Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Bohemian (or Lise the Bohemian), 1868

1876. The Cheval-Glass - Berthe Morisot The Cheval-Glass – Berthe Morisot, 1876

1912. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - NollendorfplatzErnst Ludwig Kirchner – Nollendorfplatz, 1912

1899. Charing Cross Bridge - Claude MonetCharing Cross Bridge – Claude Monet, 1899

E.L.Kirchner, Rheinbruecke / 1914 - Kirchner / Rhine Bridge / 1914 -Rheinbrücke in Köln, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

1913. Drei Akte, Karl Schmidt-RottluffDrei Akte, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, 1913

1903. The Sin (Die Sünde) - Franz StuckThe Sin (Die Sünde) – Franz Stuck, 1903

Stu-04-NatGalTilla Durieux als Circe – Franz Stuck, 1900

1815. Gothic Church on a Rock by the Sea - Karl Friedrich SchinkelGothic Church on a Rock by the Sea – Karl Friedrich Schinkel, 1815

1822. Moonrise over the Sea - Caspar David FriedrichMoonrise over the Sea – Caspar David Friedrich, 1822

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