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.