Canvas, Paint Brush, and Opera Glasses

Klimt_Birch Forest

Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest, 1903. Oil on canvas, 42 1/4 x 42 1/4 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

On view in Seeing Nature, Birch Forest is one of many scenes Gustav Klimt painted at the Attersee, a lake near Salzburg where he often spent his summers beginning in 1900.

Klimt frequently used a telescope or opera glasses when composing his landscapes; these devices allowed him to see in great detail while at the same time collapsing the middle distance. The flatness of the resulting close-up perspective gives the surface of the canvas the appearance of a densely knotted tapestry. As in many of the artist’s other landscapes, a hushed reverence pervades the painting, infusing the simple forest with a sense of the sacred.

Paint What You Sense: Monet in Vétheuil

Monet_landscape on ile-saint-martin

Claude Monet, En Paysage dans I’île Saint-Martin, 1881. Oil on canvas, 28 13/16 x 23 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Bright and warm, Claude Monet’s En Paysage dans I’île Saint-Martin (on view in Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection) depicts a nearly perfect day. Monet painted this scene in Vétheuil, a small village forty miles west of Paris, where he lived with his wife and two children, as well as the family of his patron, Ernest Hoschedé. In settling in Vétheuil, Monet hoped to find not only creative inspiration, but also imagery that could be translated into salable pictures that would replenish his dwindling financial resources. Filling the canvas with loosely applied dashes of brightly hued paint, Monet captured light and atmosphere—a goal shared by his fellow French Impressionists. One of the original members of that group of avant-garde painters, Monet painted what he sensed, not just what he saw.

Triangles, Cones, and Legs in Milton Avery’s Dancing Trees

Avery_Dancing Trees

Milton Avery, Dancing Trees, 1960. Oil on canvas, 52 x 66 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection © 2015 Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Marketing Intern Olivia Bensimon spent some time with Milton Avery’s Dancing Trees (1960), on view in Seeing Nature, recording her thoughts and reactions in a freewriting exercise:

Blue triangles of different size superposed on a turquoise and blue-grey background. Cones with legs and spots. Milton Avery’s abstract painting evokes something more like a dream than a landscape. The swaying of these cones is discernible; the circular brushstrokes of the cones in the foreground in comparison to the straight strokes of the background show movement. Candy corn from the Halloween trick or treats of my childhood comes to mind. The kernels float around and echo the movement of the wind. Shrubs begin to appear, branches and leaves sprout out from what once was a two dimensional triangle. The wind picks up as the cones are completely covered in a homogeneous surface of leaves. The wind whistles through the leaves; the cones still swaying with the wind, now swaying with the whistling. Finally, trees appear instead of cones, dancing against the wind on a flat landscape of turquoise grass.

The landscapes on view in Seeing Nature can inspire any number of different emotions and reactions. Does one of the works from the exhibition stand out to you? Take a stab at your own freewriting exercise in response! Let your pen take the lead and send us the result at for a chance to win a Phillips gift bag. We’ll feature our favorite submissions here on the blog.

Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern