Gustav Klimt's Landscapes in the Leopold Museum

A Morning by the Pond (1899) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

A Morning by the Pond

The painting shows the Egelsee, a small lake in Golling near Hallein, not far from Salzburg in the north of Austria. Here, Gustav Klimt and the Flöge family spent three weeks together in August 1899. From the next year onward, he would spend every summer on the Attersee.

Klimt paints the reflections of the forest shore and the rock face of the Salzburg Tennen Mountains in this piece with great dedication. In the delicate flow of the lake surface, the outlines blur and the colors softly transition.

In this picture, Klimt transcends the limits of setting a near-natural tone in painting and comes up with a new form of landscape stylization tied to Art Nouveau. Like the "pictorialist" photographs from this period, Klimt's paintings also invite contemplation.

By slightly elevating our view as observers, Klimt expands the water surface from bottom to top and pushes the landscape horizon close to the upper edge of the picture. Klimt would continue to apply this compositional arrangement in his later landscape paintings.

Klimt uses a square format for this picture for the first time. He would maintain the square format for all his landscape paintings from this point onward. Through this format in particular, Klimt successfully created extraordinary compositions with a high level of stylization tied to Art Nouveau.

On Lake Attersee (1900) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

On the Attersee

The Attersee is the largest lake in the Salzkammergut, a region on the edge of the Alps about 30 miles northeast of Salzburg. Three Austrian provinces—Salzburg, Upper Austria, and Styria—meet here.

This area was a popular holiday destination around 1900.

Gustav Klimt im Ruderboot (1909) by UnknownAustrian National Library

Klimt painted this picture during his first visit to the Attersee in the summer of 1900. He had gone for three weeks together with Emilie Flöge and her relatives for a summer retreat. The tourists stayed right next to the lake shore in Bräuhof, Litzlberg, Upper Austria.

On Lake Attersee (1900) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

The painting is unusual for its time and a brave depiction of the Attersee, which Klimt frequently portrayed over the following years. It is particularly brave in terms of the full water surface which, with its almost abstract color composition, makes up most of the painting.

Klimt characterizes the waves with free-formed specks of turquoise which grow smaller and smaller as they move upward, somewhat creating the illusion of depth.

The dark treetops on Litzlberg Island in the upper-right corner make up the only clearly defined point on the horizon.

The water is seen to have an unusual vivid turquoise color. In fact, the lake often has this color in the early summer mornings. Klimt has undoubtedly moved the most toward abstraction out of all his landscape pictures in this painting.

The critics who first saw the painting at the 10th Secession Exhibition in 1901 were enthralled by this work. As Ludwig Hevesi aptly put it: "A frame full of lake water from the Attersee; nothing but short gray and green waves glide through each other."

The Large Poplar II (Gathering Storm) (1903) by Gustav KlimtLeopold Museum

Large Poplar II

Klimt vacationed each summer from 1900 to 1907 in the Brauhof Litzlberg guesthouse on the Attersee with the Flöge family.

He even discovered interesting motifs around the guesthouse, such as a mighty poplar which he painted twice.

The imposing tree stood next to the Seehof Chapel in Litzlberg and would fall victim to a lightning strike in 1928. In a pointillist manner, Klimt forms the leaves of the poplar tree out of many small dots. Critics around this time felt this was reminiscent of the spots on trout.

In this second version of the popular motif from around 1902/03, Klimt transports the landscape into a dark thunderstorm scene. As a result, this picture differs from all the other landscapes which almost always evoke a timeless, carefree feeling with the sun shining.

Klimt impressively varies the greyish, disheveled masses of clouds high up in the sky that have been thrown about by the wind and plays with forms to achieve an astounding level of abstraction. This highlights the mysterious, symbolic effect of this extraordinary landscape painting.

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