Gustav Klimt, “Hope I,” 1903, oil on canvas, 189 x 67 cm. National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is offering viewers a rare opportunity to see three paintings by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), including commanding examples of the artist’s trademark female portraiture and impressive landscape ingenuity.

Three outstanding examples from the oeuvre of fin-de-siècle and Viennese Secession master Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) are on long-term display at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. “This long-term display is an unprecedented opportunity to see three exceptional Klimt paintings together in Canada,” said NGC Deputy Director and Chief Curator Paul Lang. “It enables the Gallery to offer a complete survey of the artist’s work spanning two decades of his career. A truly transformative loan, these works will allow our visitors to experience the full visual splendor of one of the most inventive artists of his day.”

The three paintings on view are “Portrait of Elisabeth Lederer,” “Forest Slope in Unterach on the Attersee,” and “Hope I.” Commissioned in 1914 by the artist’s most important patrons, the wealthy Viennese couple August and Szerena Lederer, “Portrait of Elisabeth Lederer” (1914-16) portrays their 21-year-old daughter. Elisabeth Lederer stands life-sized, her expression one of elegant self-confidence and youthful freshness. “Klimt has transformed her cloak into a dazzling, quasi-abstract array of ornamentation and placed her on a brightly-colored carpet that flattens the space while simultaneously drawing the woman out toward the viewer,” says Curatorial Assistant and Provenance Researcher Kirsten Appleyard. “Surrounding her is an assortment of Chinese figures, a nod to the Lederers’ reputation as erudite collectors and a testament to the artist’s own connoisseurship of Asian art. While earlier portraits by the artist seduce via the rich physicality of their ornament — often conveyed in a gold-encrusted mosaic style — here Klimt relies on exotic marvels to evoke curiosity and command attention.”

Appleyard explains, “While the artist is primarily celebrated for his portraits and allegories, his landscapes comprise almost one half of his oeuvre from the last two decades of his life.” Indeed, Klimt devoted himself intensely to this genre, retreating every summer to the countryside around Lake Attersee in Upper Austria to paint and reflect.

“Like the majority of Klimt’s landscapes, ‘Forest Slope in Unterach on the Attersee’ (1916) follows a square format achieved through the use of optical devices such as a telescope or opera glasses,” says Appleyard.

“In this carefully crafted two-dimensional painting, planes are artificially stacked one upon the other, with powerful strokes of related colors creating an overall mood of meditative calm. Klimt’s landscape is withdrawn and timeless — a tranquil daydream. While echoes of Cézanne’s ordered structures and Van Gogh’s expressive handling can be felt, it is nevertheless a work of exceptional daring and originality.”

To learn more, visit the National Gallery of Canada.

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