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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Another View of Klimt



Gustav Klimt 1862-1918
Farm Garden with Crucifix
1911-1912.
OIl on canvas
Destroyed by fire in 1945 at Schloss Immendorf


Klimt’s landscapes are now a highly admired aspect of his oeuvre.

Landscape painting enabled him to experiment, free from the pressure of commissioned work and the distractions of the metropolis.

It is utterly removed from the portraiture and allegory that filled so many of his works in Vienna.

Many were painted in the summer holidays.

In a letter written around the time he painted the above painting, he wrote:

"Early in the morning, mostly about six, a little earlier or later--I get up--if the weather is good I go into the forest nearby--I'm painting a little beech wood there (in the sun) with a few conifers in between, that lasts until 8 o'clock, then we have breakfast, after that a swim in the lake, taken with due care--after that again a little painting, when the sun's shining a picture of the lake, when the weather's overcast a landscape from the window of my room--often I don't paint in the morning but instead study my Japanese books--outside in the open. So midday comes, after eating, a little nap or reading--until afternoon coffee--before or after coffee a second swim in the lake, not regularly but mostly. After coffee it's painting again--a large poplar at twilight with a storm coming on--now and again instead of this evening painting there's a little game of skittles in a small place not far away--but that's rare--then dusk--dinner--then in good time to bed and again in good time up the next morning. Now and again in this division of the day there's a little rowing in order to get my muscles toned up" (quoted in F. Whitford, Klimt, London, 2004, p. 180).


On May 7 1945, an SS unit arrived at Immendorf Castle in southern Austria. That morning, German forces in Austria had signed their surrender, to take effect the next day.

Schloss Immendorf was a beautiful setting. It contained 13 paintings by Gustav Klimt. According to a 1946 police report, the SS officers "held orgies all night in the castle apartments".

The next day, the SS unit laid explosives in the castle's four towers and walked out. One man went back and lit a fuse, and a tower burst into flames. As the fire spread, explosives in the other towers detonated. Schloss Immendorf burned for days. Nothing survived of its interior, and the gutted shell was later demolished.

According to the eyewitness reports that reached Vienna months later not a single work of art survived.