Inspired Art: Trees like Gustav Klimt

Inspired Art: Trees like Gustav Klimt

I can't think of fall trees without the image of Klimt's Tree of Life coming to my mind with its beautiful gold tones and twisting bare branches.

Image from the book Klimt, published by Grange Books. (This is an extensive collection and is not one I would hand to kids to look at. I am personally not comfortable with all of the pieces in this book.)

Image from the book Klimt, published by Grange Books. (This is an extensive collection and is not one I would hand to kids to look at. I am personally not comfortable with all of the pieces in this book.)

Studying the art of Klimt was eye opening.  His life is an interesting one, and although many of the details were not appropriate to share with children, we did talk about his cats, his travels, and how Byzantine Mosaic pieces influenced his own art. He was known as a charitable man.  There are stories of him helping shop owners who were struggling and also giving much money to beggars. Although he made pieces showing women dressed in lavish clothing, he did not much care about what he wore.

Image from Klimt, The Great Artist Collection.  This has a good overview of his life and works, more suitable for teens and adults, depending on your personal views.

Image from Klimt, The Great Artist Collection.  This has a good overview of his life and works, more suitable for teens and adults, depending on your personal views.

Gustav Klimt was born in Austria in 1862, the son of a gold engraver.  Klimt and his brother had a business painting murals on walls and ceilings of many buildings. After painting murals he branched out into a new art - Art Nouveau. The swirls and flowing lines found in his pieces, along with bright colors, were a part of this new art movement.

I chose to focus on three of his pieces: The Kiss, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and Tree of Life. While we looked at these pieces we noticed all the gold. We discussed how his father's profession may have influenced his work.

I had the children look at the patterns on the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and in The Kiss.  We compared the patterns on the man's robe and the patterns on the woman's robe.  We spent some time studying and talking about what we saw and felt.

Image from Klimt, The Great Artists Collection.

Image from Klimt, The Great Artists Collection.

We then looked at Tree of Life.  We noticed the curving of the branches. We discussed how the branches extend out, filling up the page.

We got to work on creating our own pieces inspired by Tree of Life and also by the patterns we saw in the other pieces we studied.  We started with black cardstock and drew the shape of our trees with gold sharpie, being sure to fill up the page and add a lot of swirls. 

We colored the trees in with the gold sharpies and used gold gel pens to add patterns between the branches.

This part was time consuming and some of the kids needed breaks.

This project was a lot of fun and was perfect for fall. I loved seeing how creative the kids were with their patterns. One of my boys said our trees look like Halloween trees. I've seen many different variations of Klimt's Tree of Life by art teachers and students. Maybe there's one you'd like to try as well. 

-Mary

Good books for kids that teach a bit about Klimt are A Child's Introduction To Art by Heather Alexander and 13 Painters Children Should Know by Florian Heine.