A rare opportunity to view three paintings by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century, offers The National Gallery of Canada. It became possible owing to a long term loan from a private collection. Portrait of Elisabeth Lederer (1914-16), a commanding example of Klimt’s trademark female portraiture, and Forest Slope in Unterach on the Attersee (1916), a lush example of Klimt’s lesser-known, yet equally impressive landscape paintings, are now on view in the European galleries, along with Hope I (1903), which the Gallery purchased in 1970. Hope I is the only painting by Klimt in a Canadian public collection. 

"These works will allow our visitors to experience the full visual splendor of one of the most inventive artists of his day,”  NGC Chief Curator Paul Lang said.


Fragment of the exhibition in the National Gallery of Canada with Gustav Klimt's paintings "The Forest Slope in Unterah-am-Atters" and "Hope I". Photos via Artdaily.com


The most renowned member of the fin-de-siècle Art Nouveau movement known as the Vienna Secession, Gustav Klimt is celebrated for his painterly expressiveness and extravagant devotion to colour and surface materiality. He sought to break with the past and propose a new style and experimental mode of expression commensurate with the realities of modern life.

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 twenty-year-old daughter. Elisabeth Lederer stands life-sized, her expression one of elegant self-confidence and youthful freshness.


Густав Климт. Портрет Элизабет Ледерер (баронессы Элизабет Бахофен-Эхт)
Портрет Элизабет Ледерер (баронессы Элизабет Бахофен-Эхт)
Густав Климт
1916, 180×126 см

“Klimt has transformed her cloak into a dazzling, quasi-abstract array of ornamentation and placed her on a brightly-coloured carpet that flattens the space while simultaneously drawing the woman out toward the viewer,” says Curatorial Assistant Kirsten Appleyard.
Густав Климт. Портрет Серены Ледерер
Портрет Серены Ледерер
Густав Климт
1899, 188×83 см
According to her, more 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. 

In the context of this portrait one more fact is worth mentioning . Gustav Klimt was never married, but as a result of his love affairs, 17 children were born. One of his mistresses, according to rumors, was Serena Lederer. Her daughter Elizabeth Bachofen-Eht managed to avoid persecution during the Nazi regime only thanks to testimonies that her real father was "Aryan" Klimt, and not a Jew August Leder.

Left: Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Serena Lederer (1899). National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Густав Климт. Надежда I
Надежда I
Густав Климт
1903, 189×67 см

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. “In this carefully crafted two-dimensional painting, planes are artificially stacked one upon the other, with powerful strokes of related colours creating an overall mood of meditative calm,” says Appleyard. 
Густав Климт. Лесной склон в Унтерах-ам-Аттерзе
Лесной склон в Унтерах-ам-Аттерзе
Густав Климт
1916, 110×110 см

"Klimt 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, ” the curator adds.


Густав Климт. Цветущий сад
Цветущий сад
Густав Климт
1907, 110×110 см

Just recall the most expensive landscape in the artwork of Gustav Klimt, the "Blooming Garden" (1907), sold in March 2017 at Sotheby's for 48 million GBP. A piece from a private collection appeared on the market for the first time in 23 years.

Follow us on Instagram


Based on materials artdaily.com, official site of National Gallery of Canada, klimt.com