Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest, 1903, Oil on canvas, Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Seeing Nature: Klimt’s Birch Forest

With one month left to experience Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, we’ll be posting essay excerpts from the exhibition catalog written by Portland Art Museum curators.

Birch Forest, Gustav Klimt
By Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings

In Birch Forest, Klimt envelops the viewer in a timeless woodland setting; no human beings disturb the forested peace, no drifting clouds or ephemeral rain showers suggest temporality. The only hint of the passing of time is in the carpet of golden leaves that blanket the ground. Their blazing reds, ambers, and golds remind the viewer of the coming of autumn and create a rich carpet that stretches back nearly to the top of the composition.The bed of leaves serves as a foil to the elegant vertical lines of the birch trees, each trunk carefully delineated in its individuality. The irregular patterns on the bark of each tree collapse into two-dimensionality, creating a flattened scrim of color, a veil of pattern and design.

Birch Forest is also featured in a video highlighting the conservation efforts behind many of the paintings in the exhibition.