This work is being offered pursuant to an agreement between the heir of Amalie Redlich and Mathilde Jorisch, and the current owner.
Executed in 1913, the magnificent Kirche in Cassone is one of the finest examples of Klimt's landscape paintings. Combining the lush greenery with the houses sloping down towards the surface of the lake, it unites the natural and architectural elements into a harmonious composition, their interlocking forms creating a dynamic, shimmering surface. The artist's innovative technique is coupled with his passion for patterns and decoration, as well as with his fascination with his beautiful surroundings, making this a true masterpiece of Klimt's art.
Depicting the village of Cassone on Lake Garda in Italy (fig. 1), this landscape was painted during Klimt's visit to the region in 1913. Klimt stayed on Lake Garda with Emilie Flöge and her family from the end of July until mid-September, and executed three oil paintings during this time. They took a lodging on the little peninsula near the town of Malcesine, from which the artist painted this view of Cassone, situated several kilometers to the south. They also took boat trips to Porto di Tremosine, on the opposite shore, from which Klimt painted a view of Malcesine (fig. 2) and Italienische Gartenlandschaft now in the collection of Kunsthaus, Zug. As Malcesine am Gardasee has been destroyed, Kirche in Cassone is the only remaining painting by Klimt depicting Lake Garda and its architecture.
Writing about the present work, Alfred Weidinger observed: 'The church was painted from a position near the Villa Gruber in Dosso di Ferri on the Val di Sogno Peninsula in Malcesine. As on Lake Attersee [fig. 4], Klimt also used an optical aid, probably a telescope with a 10 power magnification, for this work. [...] The perspective in Klimt's pictures of houses is created by the orthogonal structural system, on the one hand, and the surface-oriented painting technique, which preserves the spatial relationships within a single silhouette without considering any changes, on the other. This makes it possible for the artist to form a connection between everything which is united by an outline on the same plane. The octagonal building of the church, which was constructed in the seventeenth century and dominates Cassone, appears as a large, scarcely sectionalized, surface. The cypresses, sometimes ingeniously placed in front of clarifying house corners, are used as a supporting stylistic element. In addition, the strongly accented areas of light and shadow divert the attention from the organization of the surface' (A. Weidinger (ed.), op. cit., 2007, p. 298).
In contrast to his more meticulously planned figure compositions, for which he generally executed large groups of pencil studies, there are scarcely any preparatory studies for the landscapes. As such they bear witness to Klimt's direct response to the natural world, and are his most private, intimate paintings. Klimt builds up his vision of the town through a bold mosaic of tessellated colours, the cool blue and green tones punctuated by the bright yellow and red of the roofs. As in many of his later works, here Klimt used geometric shapes and a vertiginous perspective, similar to Schiele's townscapes of Krumau (fig. 5). The effect is one of a flattening-out of the townscape, creating a richly textured surface that nevertheless retains great depth in its subtle and delicate modulation of colour. The houses appear to be stacked on top of each other, rising in a dramatic perspective, their flat geometric shapes reflecting the radical new aesthetic of the Wiener Werkstätte. In this surface patterning, Klimt's Kirche in Cassone is perhaps inspired by the folk tapestry and stained glass window techniques in which German and Austrian artists took a keen interest in the first decades of the twentieth century.
Another important source of influence visible in the present work is the art of the Cubists active in Paris at the time. Discussing Klimt's painting executed during his trip in Italy, Stephan Koja commented: 'The paintings Church in Cassone and Malcesine on Lake Garda undoubtedly show Klimt's reaction to Cubism which he had experienced during his trip to Paris in 1909, and, in particular, to the works of Egon Schiele. The two artists definitely discussed the new phenomenon of Cubism, particularly as Schiele had had the opportunity of seeing Cubist paintings in the Goltz Gallery in Munich in 1912 and, in addition, had called one of his city paintings "Cubist City" on a postcard he wrote at that time. Both artists translated this new style into a form of flatness. No longer was three-dimensionality of interest, but subdivision into regular geometric shapes. Klimt constructed his Lake Garda paintings out of individual layers rather than from blocks. Even though the houses are depicted more spatially than usual in these paintings, they are still always subordinate to an overall flat concept' (S. Koja in Gustav Klimt. Landscapes (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 116).
In adopting the square format for his canvases, and almost abandoning the horizon line, Klimt challenged the traditional notion of landscape painting with a foreground and a background. Instead, he transformed the canvas into a decorative plane, building a mosaic-like composition out of small brushstrokes of brilliant colour, giving the painting a jewel-like quality. The lack of sky and the continuousness of the pattern give the work an autonomous character, and despite the outdoor setting, the scene has a closed, self-contained feel. Klimt's great achievement was to create landscapes of an ethereal, meditative quality, with the aim of capturing the state of mind or evoking a mood, and allowing his works to attain the quality of an object of meditation as well as of a subjective view of nature.
Discussing the artist's development of the square format, Johannes Dobai wrote: 'Klimt had been using this shape of picture, suggesting as it does a sense of quiet, since 1898... preferring it for his figurative compositions and for his Symbolist paintings and portraits too. He did not, however, use it nearly as consistently in these works as he did in his landscapes, which, from then on, were invariably to be square in format. All his landscapes have something in common, which seems to be symbolised by their shape, regardless of any stylistic variation, all the landscapes are made fundamentally comprehensible as objects of meditation by means of this simple device' (J. Dobai, Gustav Klimt Landscapes, London, 1988, p. 11). It is interesting to note that Claude Monet started using the square canvas for his depictions of waterlilies around the same time. Like Monet, Klimt used this format to negate the traditional notions of perspective and horizon line; it allowed him to treat the entire canvas as a continuous flat surface, and to use the houses and trees as a device to create a rhythmic pattern across the composition. In abandoning the horizon line and blurring the distinction between figure and background, both artists introduced a radically new approach to painting.
Kirche in Cassone once formed part of one of the greatest early collections of Klimt's work, that of the Austro-Hungarian iron magnate and collector Viktor Zuckerkandl (1851-1927) and his wife Paula. Viktor Zuckerkandl and his siblings were among the greatest patrons of the arts in turn of the century Vienna, and the couple acquired several extremely important paintings, including the present work, directly from the artist. They were members of the circle of intellectuals, writers and collectors that included luminaries such as Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer, August and Serena Lederer and Gustav Mahler. Viktor was also a patron of the Secessionist architect Josef Hoffmann, whom he commissioned to design the Wiener Werkstatt architectural masterpiece, the Sanatorium Purkersdorf, which Viktor founded and ran on the outskirts of Vienna. Paula Zuckerkandl was painted by Klimt in 1912, in a monumental oil that was probably destroyed during the Second World War.
When the Zuckerkandls died childless in 1927, part of their extraordinary collection was sold and the remainder passed onto Viktor's family. Kirche in Cassone entered the collection of his sister Amalie Redlich, who, together with her daughter Mathilde, was deported to Lodz in 1941 and never heard of again. After the Anschluss in 1938 she had made arrangements for her paintings to be stored by a shipping company. She paid the company's foreman a hefty bribe of 2,000 Reichsmarks to ensure the safe-keeping of the crates, but while that may have prevented her property from being seized by the Gestapo, the paintings had nonetheless disappeared from the crates by 1947 when Redlich's son-in-law returned and found them empty at the shipper's premises. Only much later did Kirche in Cassone resurface in a private collection. Though the painting was acquired by the family of the present owner in good faith and with legal title, they have voluntarily agreed with the Zuckerkandl heir to offer this magnificent painting at auction.
Fig. 1, Gustav Klimt, Malcesine am Gardasee (Malcesine on Lake Garda), 1913, oil on canvas, destroyed in 1945
Fig. 2, Gustav Klimt, Forsthaus in Weissenbach I (Landhaus am Attersee), 1914, oil on canvas. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 5th November 2003 (sold for $29,128,000)
Fig. 3, A view of Cassone on Lake Garda
Fig. 4, Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, oil, silver and gold plating on canvas, Neue Galerie, New York
Fig. 5, Gustav Klimt, Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzlberg on the Attersee), 1914, Museum der Moderne Rupertinum, Salzburg
Fig. 6, Egon Schiele, Krumauer Landschaft (Stadt und Fluss), 1916, oil on canvas. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 23rd June 2003
Oil on canvas
Vienna, Klimt Gedächtnisausstellung. XCIX Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession, 1928, no. 56 or 59 (titled Gardaseelandschaft)
Graz, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Gedächtnis-Ausstellung aus Anlass des 100. Geburtstages von Gustav Klimt, 1962, no. 3, illustrated in colour on the cover of the catalogue
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Gustav Klimt. Landscapes, 2002-03, no. 44, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
110 by 110cm. 43 1/4 by 43 1/4 in.
Verlag H.O. Miethke (ed.), Das Werk Gustav Klimts, 1908-14, lot V, no. 10
Marie-José Liechtenstein, 'Gustav Klimt und seine oberösterreichischen Salzkammergutlandschaften', in Franz Pfeffer & Wilhelm Jenny (ed.), Kunst in Österreich 1851-1951. Beiträge zur österreichischen Kunstgeschichte des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, Linz, 1951, no. 42, p. 123
Christian M. Nebehay (ed.), Gustav Klimt, Dokumentation, Vienna, 1969, no. 603, illustrated p. 473
Fritz Novotny & Johannes Dobai, Gustav Klimt, Salzburg, 1975, no. 185, illustrated p. 358 and pl. 86
Johannes Dobai, 'Die Landschaft aus der Sicht von Gustav Klimt. Ein Essay', in Klimt-Studien, Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Galerie, Vienna, 1978-79, p. 264
Anselm Wagner, 'Aspekte der Landschaft bei Gustav Klimt', in Inselräume. Teschner, Klimt & Flöge am Attersee, Seewalchen, 1989, p. 51
Gerbert Frodl, Klimt, London, 1992, fig. 2, illustrated in colour p. 131
Alfred Weidinger, 'Der Landschaftsmaler', in Gustav Klimt (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1992, illustrated p. 56
Alfred Weidinger, Neues zu den Landschaften Gustav Klimts, Salzburg, 1992, p. 125
Gilles Néret, Gustav Klimt, Cologne, 1993, illustrated in colour p. 76
Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele (exhibition catalogue), Fundación Juan March, Madrid, 1995, fig. 65, illustrated p. 33
Sophie Lillie, Was einmal war. Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens, Vienna, 2003, mentioned pp. 657 & 1372; illustrated p. 918
Stephan Koja, 'Frisch weht der Wind der Heimat zu...' Neue Beobachtungen zur Topographie von Klimts Landschaftsbildern', in Belvedere. Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, 2007, pp. 211-212
Alfred Weidinger (ed.), Gustav Klimt, Munich, Berlin, London & New York, 2007, no. 217, illustrated in colour pp. 164 & 298
Gustav Klimt. The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections (exhibition catalogue), Neue Galerie, New York, 2007-08, no. 38, illustrated in colour p. 74
Viktor & Paula Zuckerkandl, Vienna (acquired from the artist by 1914)
Amalie Redlich (née Zuckerkandl), Vienna (sister of Viktor Zuckerkandl, acquired from the estates of the above in 1928; until at least 1939)
Galerie Welz, Vienna (acquired by 1947)
Hans Fritz, Gerlitzen
Private Collection, Graz (acquired from the above by 1962)
Acquired from the above by the present owner