Occasional Painting – Farm Garden With Crucifix
I’m not a huge fan of Gustav Klimt’s more well known works, like Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. But I happened to come across a book of landscapes, and I was absolutely captivated by them. While perhaps not as innovative as his ornate paintings of women, or riffs on Beethoven’s Ninth symphony, his landscapes, which he painted throughout his life, are simple and melancholic.
According to the ‘internet’, Farm Garden with Crucifix, and 15 other paintings were destroyed in Austria in 1945 by retreating Nazi soldiers (is there no end to their evil!). It was being kept at Immendorf castle, and, when SS forces knew the Allies were approaching, they set fire to the castle and fled. The only reason we have images of the work today are because detailed colour negatives were made of many of Klimt’s paintings in the teens, and later in the 1930s.
What I like about Farm Garden with Crucifix (1911-12), is that is possesses a kind of child-like quality in terms of its composition, and the ‘uneven-ness’ of the lines. It’s a squiggly painting. But it is so rich in detail, and so amazingly atmospheric that one can stare at it for a long time and really feel that they are there. The hint of an old building in the background, and the way the flowers have grown around the crucifix, suggests neglect – it is as if Klimt stumbled upon the site by accident and found it had been untouched by humans for many years.
During his lifetime, Klimt was often derided for exhibiting works many people considered pornographic. Today he is among the pantheon of Very Expensive Artists, along with Van Gogh and Picasso, et al. At an auction at Christie’s in New York just recently, four works by Klimt sold for a combined total of $192 million.