Think of Gustav Klimt and his golden period portraits of hauntingly beautiful Viennese women probably spring to mind, gilded and laden with symbolism. And of course, The Kiss.
But the Austrian artist also painted landscapes. Among them is the glowing and unashamedly pretty Bauerngarten, which is expected to sell for in excess of Dhs165 million ($45 million) in Sotheby’s London’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 1 March.
Painted in 1907 during Klimt’s golden period on a square canvas, Bauerngarten, like his other landscapes, is much more freely painted than his opulent, stylised portraits. It oozes a sense of relaxed, joyful contentment. Each summer, Klimt would holiday with family and friends on the shore of Lake Attersee in Austria, where he would relax and paint. The inspiration for Bauerngarten was a local farmer’s garden, with poppies, daisies and roses growing freely. There’s even a faint echo of a figure under all those blooms.
Klimt is hugely desirable and his major works hard to come by, making him a true trophy purchase. Last week it was reported by Bloomberg that Oprah Winfrey sold Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II for $150 million (Dhs551 million) in a private transaction to an Asian buyer. In 2015, it was reported that Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev sold Water Serpents II (1904-1907) privately for $170 million (Dhs624 million), again apparently to an Asian buyer. So it’s unsurprising, given the thirst among Asian collectors for Klimt, that Sotheby’s chose to unveil Bauerngarten in Hong Kong this week.
Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department and Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, describes Klimt as one of the most desirable artists today. “Innovative in its composition and jewel-like in its exquisite blaze of colours, it is one of the artist’s greatest masterpieces ever to come to auction” says Newman of Bauerngarten, “Most of the artist’s oil paintings of this calibre are in major museums around the world with only a handful works of this importance having appeared at auction in the last decade.”
Sotheby’s London’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale is on 1 March. For more information see Sothebys.com