Tree of Life: Gustav Klimt

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

I was blessed to have attended an exhibit of Gustav Klimt’s works at the National Art Gallery in 2001.  It was the summer that I met my beautiful niece for the first time and my sister and this amazing babe came along to enjoy this ‘magical’ collection of works.  Here, I include my program cover and a few notes from my journals.

National Art Gallery 2001

Although the exhibit included many of Klimt’s more well-known paintings, the Tree of Life was not in this collection.  It WAS a huge exhibit though with a vast sampling of Klimt’s themes, including a single room filled to overflowing with his landscape paintings.  Because, at home, I was busy painting a landscape exhibit for the commercial art galleries, I was left breathless by this work.

It’s interesting though, in the end, I was moved most by a painting titled Irrlichter (Will-o-the-Wisps) painted in 1903.  The connected information is written here.

“This painting was last exhibited at the Klimt retrospective of 1903 and has only recently been rediscovered.  In German folklore Irrlichter were the fabled inhabitants of moor and marsh.  Toward the end of the 19th century, the figure was revived as an erotic subject in Symbolist literature, a representative soul of nature in an increasingly urbanized society.  Here Klimt depicts the Irrlichter floating through dark, undulating streams of water or the cosmos as guardians of some mystical crystalline light source.”  The painting was luminous!

In Klimt’s approach to the Tree of Life, three worlds surrounding humankind are connected; “those are The Underworld, The Earth, and The Heavens. Its roots are deep into the earth, probably signifying that for life to be sustained, Mother Nature must be involved. The roots then come up to the aboveground and meet into forming the tree’s trunk that is on the earth. The tree’s branches extent to the heavens, and have various type of fruits and flowers on them. These fruits symbolize that life can be born from the tree.”

A beautiful painting, it involves the gilded detailing of Klimt’s Art Nouveau period.