Beech Grove I (Beech Forest I)

Gustave Klimt
Keywords: BeechGroveBeechForest

Work Overview

Beech Grove I (Beech Forest I)
Gustav Klimt
Date: 1902
Style: Symbolism
Period: Golden phase
Genre: landscape
Media: oil, canvas
Dimensions: 100 x 100 cm
Location: Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany

Accomplished 1902 in Litzlberg on Lake Attersee. Gustav Klimt, in the early years of the last century, created several beech forest paintings in which a repetitive array of trees plays the trunks' slenderness against the gold of fallen leaves to draw the viewer into a serene tableau. Klimt's beautiful delicate brushwork captures this eerie scene, a profusion of energy held in place by his sheer technical professionalism. Here, he has perfected his own adaptation of Neo-Impressionism and Pointillism esthetics, resulting in the play of superb oppositional tensions across the painted surface. 

A densely textured meshing of dots creates the golden carpet, as though the beeches' bronzed fall foliage has fallen from the hidden tree tops. It is an explosion of separated atoms patterned into a unified mass. Crossing these dots are the striating horizontal lines of the tree bark. Klimt was undoubtedly fascinated that this series of horizontals, piled up into a columnar structure, created the vertical lines of the trees. The resulting tension is further exaggerated by the deployment of the two powerful polarized color blocks of red and green, whose oppositional forces accentuate the wood's stillness. 

Painted in 1902 at Lake Attersee, Beech Forest I is one of the landscapes produced by Gustav Klimt. Like the majority of his landscape work it lacks the ravishing details and patterning that have come to be known as the 'Klimt style', whilst at the same time pointing towards it.

Beech Forest: Style and Substance
Klimt often holidayed at Lake Attersee, prolifically producing works exploring the landscape. The intensity with which he approached this work led to him being nicknamed Waldschrat ("Forest demon") by locals.

Klimt used a view finder when working on his landscapes- initially this was a simple hole in a piece of card, although it said it later became opera glasses.

The result of it was to change the perspective of his paintings. Instead of looking to the horizon the audience is drawn to other features within Klimt's works.

In Beech Forest I the shortening of the horizon makes the beautifully coloured autumn leaves take centre stage. They become the main subject of the work.

Klimt's Landscape Influences
It has been said that Klimt's landscapes owe much to impressionism and pointillism. These influences are noticeable here, used to juxtapose parts of the work against each other.

The bright leaves are full of detail that is almost impossible to focus on, contrasting strongly with the dull and steady details of the tree trunks that almost suck the light out of the picture.

This conflict gives the painting vibrancy and energy, so that the reader focuses on the details in the leaves.

Beech Forest I vs Beech Forest II
It is interesting to note that there is a later painting of the same subject matter. In this representation Klimt changed focus slightly. Instead of the centrepiece of the work being the vibrant autumn leaves on the ground, the focus this time is on the tree trunks.

Lighter in colour and with more detailed patterning they show a change in attention but a continuing passion for the details and patterns that make visual sense of the world around us.