Lake Attersee: Where Klimt Spent His Summers and So Should You

The water of Lake Attersee in Upper Austria is crystal clear but changes its color by the minute from a near Caribbean-like sapphire to bright azure and dark navy; I watch the clouds race and the swans jockey for bread from the tourists walking past. It is easy to understand why Austrian painter Gustav Klimt spent sixteen summers at the shore of this lake and created 45 of his 50 landscape paintings based on the views around the lake.

The Gustav Klimt Center in the small town of Kammer am Attersee celebrates and explains Klimt’s fascination and works connected with the lake as it brings together facsimiles of some of his landscapes and provides a handy map of the lake indicating the locations of the views from all his Attersee paintings.  A short documentary explains more about Klimt’s life at the lake and his friendship with Emilie Floege, the sister of his sister-in-law and a fashion designer; many of her pieces remind me of the loose and colorful robes in Klimt’s paintings.

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Outfit Designed and Worn by Emilie Floege, the Sister of Klimt’s Sister-in-Law (on display at the Klimt Center)

The Center provides a nice summary and starting point, but do not expect too much; it is a very small exhibit and none of the paintings are the originals. Of course that is understandable considering that Klimt’s paintings are worth millions. For example, the painting “Kammer Castle at Attersee” sold in 1997 for 19.1 million Euros according to a sign in the Center. However, the Center’s exhibit would greatly benefit from at least one original painting that maybe could be a loan. So I recommend not expecting more from the Center than a starting point and inspiration to go out and explore the lake and its shore, especially via the Klimt Artist Trail starting right outside the Center.

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Map of the Lake and its Surroundings Indicating the View of Each Painting

The trail is an easy walk of about 1.5km or a little less than a mile along the lake shore from the Center to Villa Paulick, where Klimt spent some time.  Other parts of the trail are on the southern shore of the lake. Along the trail are panels/kiosks with details about Klimt’s life as well as photos of paintings based on the particular view and often a square cutout/view finder to imitate Klimt’s process, who used a simple cutout/frame to look for motifs.

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Close-up of sign along the Klimt path with square view finder looking at Castle Kammer similar to Klimt’s painting.

From 1899 onward, all of Klimt’s landscapes were exclusively created in a square format, so Klimt favored a format that now has become standard and expected with the popularity of Instagram and its square photos. Inspired by the cutouts in the kiosks, I took several photos of the same view in landscape format and then also in the square format, and I did prefer the square ones (but maybe that is because I have been influenced by the daily use of Instagram):

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Landscape View of Lake

 

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Square View of the Lake a la Klimt

 

Even though the trail leads one to the spots that inspired Klimt’s paintings, often too much has changed to create the same impression on photos such as the avenue leading up to Kammer Castle:

 

A drive around the lake (the road is often right next to the water) offers plenty of gorgeous views reminiscent of Klimt’s landscapes even if you do not spend the time to find the exact spots:

 

At some point, I was too taken by the views to pay attention to the map and possible markers to keep track of the trail on the southern lake shore:

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Southern Lake Shore

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The color of the lake water changes from bright green to teal to azure.

Even if you are not a Klimt fan, the lake is worth a visit for strolling, hiking, boating, and swimming; it is also a very popular lake for scuba diving because of its clear waters and depth.

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Public Pool Overlooking the Lake in Seewalchen (Along the Artist Trail)

Or maybe the views inspire you to paint or sketch (here is how Klimt depicted the water):

 

Lake Attersee is about 2.5 hours by car from Vienna, and a little bit over half an hour by car from Salzburg but pretty difficult to reach by public transportation (no major train stations are right on the lake).

The Klimt Center is near the harbor in Kammer and its opening hours change throughout the year, so check the website for more details: https://www.klimt-am-attersee.at/en/ . The Artist Trail is free and open 24/7; find a great map of all the stops here.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants with great views along the northern shore of the lake, so the lake is definitely worth a visit.

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View of the Harbor in Kammer from the Cafe at the Klimt Center

 

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Street Art in Bologna, Italy

Bologna, also known as the Red City, is famous for its many rust-colored buildings, small alleyways, and of course porticoes, and even though the town has plenty of old-time charm, it also offers plenty of modern street art in some parts of town. Many of the pieces are large and intricate and much more than a quick tag and dash (although there are plenty of tags around the city as well).

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A small street with the typical architecture and already some graffiti.

Many of the pieces I found in the university quarter of town are large and intricate:

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Many of the pieces are entertaining and do not offer political comments (at least not as far as I could gather):

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The piece is close to four meters tall.

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A large doorway enhanced by art.

However, some pieces do seem to include more obvious messages, which were still lost on me (but I did appreciate the details in the pieces):

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Several pieces spell their message out rather clearly:

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Technology is phallocentric

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While many of the pieces are painted or sprayed onto the walls and doors,  a few of the pieces are also pasted and hung like wallpaper:

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And then there are murals that cover half a building/block:

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If you are in Bologna, look for more than old churches and palazzi. As I explore more parts of the city over the next few days and weeks, I am curious to find out if more large-scale art pieces exist outside of the university quarter.

Interacting with Art

I love art museums, and over the last few months of visiting Italy, Austria, and Germany I have visited plenty of them. But even though I am a fan, I have to admit that visits can quickly become monotone and especially lesser-known or eye-catching pieces are easily skipped, overlooked, or at least not remembered. Another issue with museums is that I love to “look” with my hands, which usually is not an option; indeed, most places  do not even want one to stand too close to the art to see the brushstrokes for example, and of course that is understandable, but the problem still is that it is difficult to become fully engaged – even visually.

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Detail of “Sunflowers” 3rd Version by Vincent van Gogh in Neue Pinakothek Munich, Germany  – no flash or touching but the guard was not happy with me

Sure some visitors are more active in museums and sketch and/or write, but this active appreciation of art usually is not created by the museum and the art; the visitor decides to sketch or write or maybe as student is required to complete an assignment or in need of extra credit. So the motivation for interacting comes from the visitor and is not created by the museum displays.

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Visitor writing about/drawing the art in the Bargello in Florence, Italy

 

Sure, museums catering to children and focusing on science usually include interactive displays, but very few art museums do, so I am always excited when a display invites me to interact and I am no longer a passive observer. A recent example was a display of modern art at the K-hof museum in Gmunden, Austria. One of the sculptures, for example, came with sticky notes and visitors were encouraged to react to the piece and to other comments already left on the wall. These comments changed my perception of the piece as I started to react to the comments stuck beside it. The piece was not famous but it was memorable because of the interaction.

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Christ Sculpture by Ferdinand – One note mentions that the artist does not want a God who suffers with him but a God who laughs with him.

 

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Notes responding to the piece of art: “Laughing about what? About me? [Without interest in my suffering?] No, thanks!” Another note responds: “Laughs WITH me (not about). Therefore I am also allowed to laugh about myself.”

Another example of interaction were the hobbyhorses depicting famous horses in art at the State Exhibit “Human & Horse” in Lambach, Austria. There was Marengo, the stallion from the painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” by Jacques-Loius David; the horse’s description includes the achievement of galloping 129km in five hours.

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Ride the Hobbyhorse Marengo at the State Exhibit “Human & Horse” in Lambach, Austria

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Painting by Jacques-Louis David [Public Domain} via Wikimedia Commons

And then there was also the much calmer looking hobbyhorse Pferdinand created by Franz Marc. The description of the horse lists a talent for expressive art.

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Ride the Hobbyhorse Pferdinand at the State Exhibit “Human & Horse” in Lambach, Austria

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“Blue Horse I” by Franz Marc [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

These were just two of nearly a dozen famous hobby horses that were ridden by children in the courtyard of the exhibit, and even though no adults were playing when I visited, I could not see a sign that limited the activity only to kids.

More and more places also include replicas of the art that not only can be touched but is meant to be touched. These are geared especially towards visitors with vision impairments, but since my natural instinct is to touch, these replicas keep me entertained as well. I also realized that they help me notice details that I did not see before but now felt, and I could go back and look for them in the piece itself. Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in Milan includes one such replica, which is usually overlooked by visitors as it rests on a side wall. Read more about the artist who created this replica and many others in Italy in this article.

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Touchable Replica of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”

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Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in Milan, Italy

Art museums could still do much more to encourage more active enjoyment of the pieces, but these examples show that change is coming.

The Beauty of Imperfection: Sculptures in Florence

Sure, absolute perfection is astonishing but it is also a little bit boring. Over the last few months, I have seen plenty of “perfect” masterpieces here in Florence, and I have noticed that even though I appreciate perfection, I am much more enthralled by imperfections. This applies especially when it comes to marble sculptures here in Florence. By the way, if you have a low saturation point when it comes to white marble sculptures and/or busts, you will get your fill VERY quickly here. White marble definitely dominates many of the rooms of museums as well as churches and chapels (closely followed by depictions of Mary with gold leaf and bronze statues).

When one thinks of perfection in connection with white marble, Michelangelo’s David most likely comes to mind. And you might wonder, “So what about the David; isn’t he perfect and isn’t he beautiful?!” Yes, the sculpture is absolutely breathtaking ( so much so that it seems odd to use the lifeless pronoun “it” and not the more human “he”). And no, none of the replicas can do the original justice as it seems to be alive with visible tendons and even blood vessels.

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Michelangelo’s David in Galleria dell’ Accademia

And even with this sculpture that many would see as the perfect illustration for perfection, it is the imperfections that fascinate me. There are, for example, the mangled toes of his left foot when Piero Cannata struck the statue with a hammer in 1991 (read more about it here).

David's Foot that Was Damaged

David’s Foot that Was Damaged

Also often overlooked but fascinating are the initials MN that are engraved on the right calf. The guide mentioned the story behind it, but I am not clear about the details anymore and online sites do not mention this much.

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If you look carefully, you will see the letters “MN” carved into the the right calf of the original David by Michelangelo in Galleria dell’ Accademia

Even though Michelangelo’s David dominates the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence, the unfinished pieces by Michelangelo in the same museum are to a certain degree even more intriguing because they are unfinished and thus also not perfect. The opposition of rough and unfinished stone versus the smooth sculpture emerging  creates beauty  and fascination.

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Another unfinished Prisoner by Michelangelo in Galleria dell’ Accademia

Another exhibition in Florence, however, highlights the beauty and draw of imperfections even more. This exhibition is the collection of marble Roman busts in Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Since the busts are mostly from the second century, they are often slightly damaged. Many of them are missing the nose, but I find them even more fascinating because of that. For example, Emperor Caracalla appears more volatile and dangerous because his bust is missing the nose. The profile is rather intriguing without the complete nose.

 

Even the Riaccardi Athlete beguiles because of its imperfections. At first glance, it seems to depict an idealized and perfect human, but a closer look reveals not only amazing details such as the hint of teeth behind slightly parted lips (it seems that marble is actually flesh that could move at any moment) but also little nicks and faults.

 

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Close-up of the Bust of a Young Athlete in Palazzo Medici Riccardi

If you are in Florence, do not forget to check out the slight imperfections of David in the Accademia (see this website for more details) and do not overlook the marble Roman busts in Palazzo Medici Riccardi – even though this palazzo is more famous for its Chapel of Magi (see this website for more details on the palazzo).

Pigeons in Italy: Entertainment, Menace, and Food

In my Italian language course, I learned the word for pigeon on a field trip to the food market in Florence. We were asked to write down all the names of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats that we saw at the market. And there they were next to the chickens and ducks – several plucked pigeons otherwise still completely intact with feet and opened beaks (I am not including a photo). The Italian word for pigeon is “piccione” in case you are wondering. You may come across it on a Tuscan traditional menu.

Pigeons have fascinated and entertained me ever since I have come to Italy as they are everywhere and seem to annoy and destroy based on the many signs as well as spikes and nets to keep pigeons off buildings and art work. The efforts are not always successful as pigeons have recently closed down a part of the Uffizi in Florence because of a tick infestation that was believed to have been brought in by pigeons (see the article here). And they can still be found on ledges, overhangs, and more importantly statues.

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A Pigeon at the Entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

 

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Pigeons on the Statues of the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence

Sometimes it is difficult to get a picture without a pigeon on the sculpture since they are not really fazed by people. They also feel comfortable flying or wandering through open doors and windows to hang out in indoor cafes and restaurants.

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A Sign Warning of Pigeons in an Interior Room in a Hotel in Venice

However, pigeons also seem to be appreciated. Even though I was told it is illegal to feed the pigeons on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, I still saw plenty of tourists attracting the birds with seeds and taking the obligatory photo of themselves with pigeons on their shoulders, head, and arms in the famous square. Artists also pay attention to pigeons. This street art about a pigeon in Venice made me smile:

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Street Art of a Pigeon Wearing a Mask in Venice

But pigeons are also the subject of more traditional art forms:

I am not sure why pigeons seem to have such a bad reputation in towns. Are they really the only birds that create havoc in cities? After all, seagulls dominate the landscape in the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum in Rome and herons can be found in the Giardino di Boboli in the city center of Florence:

Pigeons in Italy come in a variety of shapes (missing foot, broken wing, missing eye for example) and colors (pigeon blue, steel grey, cream white, cappuccino brown, and white-and-brown “cow pattern”).

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Pigeons Resting on a Streetlight in Venice

I watch them while I wait in lines to get into a museum or for a friend to show up for a dinner date. And over the last few days I have watched a couple of pigeons trying to decide whether to nest in a spot on the glass roof of my apartment where I can here the clicking of their peaks against the glass as soon as the sun rises. So pigeons have been a little menace and plenty of entertainment but not yet food for me.

“Memories in the Wind” – Exhibit by Raffaele Celentano in Sorrento

The best pieces of art can lose their luster in a disadvantageous setting or display design, and the right lighting or effective display can let a piece really shine and transforms it into a memorable experience where the piece of art seems to gain energy from the setting and sometimes the display/setting itself becomes nearly as important and memorable as the piece of art itself. I experienced this in the elegant dark rooms of the Gucci Museum in Florence (see previous post) and again in the photo exhibition entitled Memories in the Wind by Raffaele Celentano in Sorrento, Italy.

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Poster Announcing the Exhbit

The exhibition shows mostly black-and-white photographs of Italian scenes and street photography taken between 1990 and 2013 around the country. The photos depict scenes that often made me smile and reminded me of the stereotypical Italy that we expect as tourists. So the photos themselves are worth a look, but what made the exhibition so memorable and exciting was the space they are displayed in as well as the display design itself. The gallery is on the second floor of the Chiostro di San Francesco.

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Chiostro di San Francesco in Sorrento: The Exhibition Is on the Second Floor of this Building

The space includes large windows overlooking the sparkling blue waters of the Bay of Naples and the silhouette of Mount Vesuvius. It is hard to know what to focus on – the photos on display or the view from the picture windows. Many of the photos are printed on canvas and are also displayed on the the balcony, where a swing hangs from a large tree that reaches up to the second floor. This is the perfect way to view photos about Italian scenes: on a swing overlooking the azure waters of the sea and breathing in the air sweet with the smell of blooming wisteria and lemon trees. I am not sure why not more galleries or museums embrace the idea of fresh air and a view in their exhibit space (for the pieces that can withstand the light and elements).

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Balcony as Exhibition Space

 

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View from the Balcony of the Gallery – Mount Vesuvius in the Background

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Some of the Works Displayed on the Balcony

To fit the theme of “memories in the wind,” many of the canvas prints are actually hung on a clotheslines interspersed with laundry: t-shirts, bras, pants, and stockings. The exhibit plays with the popular motive for tourist photos: laundry drying on the clotheslines in small and picturesque Italian alleys.

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Exhibit Outside on the Balcony

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More Pieces on the Clothesline

I enjoyed the photos but I loved the way they were displayed. I doubt that I would have been as excited about them if they would not have been fluttering in the wind with the Mediterranean Sea in the background and the smell of lemons in the air.

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Print on Canvas in the Staircase Leading to the Exhibit

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Photographer Raffaele Celentano in front of his Work

If you are in Sorrento, I highly recommend stopping by the gallery – no matter whether you come foremost for the photos or the view. Unfortunately, neither the website for the gallery nor the posters at the gallery list any opening hours, but the website includes a phone number. The artist, Raffaele Celentano, was in the gallery when I visited and explained his photos and inspirations for the exhibit in fluent German. The website also lets you visit the gallery virtually and “walk” around the space and see many of the pieces.

Angels’ Wings: Details in Paintings in Florence

I cannot even attempt to count how many depictions of the Virgin Mary I have seen over the last few weeks here in Florence. I have a tendency to enter any open church to see what is inside, and yes there is most likely a depiction of Mary or two or five or twenty depictions. The same applies to nearly any of the major museums in Florence. So it is tough for me to still get as excited about a portrayal of Mary as the importance of the art piece or the talent of the artist really deserves.Many of the depictions also seem to become very similar after viewing a few (at least for me) – a lot of golden halos and background.

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Another Depiction of Mary and Child in the Uffizi

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“Martelli Annunciation” by Filippo Lippi in Basilica di San Lorenzo

It is thus easy to start to quickly glance at these pieces and consider them as just another version of a similar piece. However, I have realized that I can still get excited about seeing another depiction of Mary when I start focusing and comparing details. One of the details that stands out to me are the angels’ wings. I am fascinated by the variety in color and the unexpected (at least for me) color combination.

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Painting of Virgin Mary in the Uffizi (Room 3) by Giotto

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Close-Up of the Angel’s Wings in the Painting “Ognissanti Madonna” by Giotto

Who knew that angels would have striped wings in vibrant hues of blue, red, and even black. Some painters also include intricate patterns in gold on the individual feathers of the wings. And since Italian museums do allow one to get pretty close to even the most important pieces, it is fascinating to observe the smallest details, and often without the big crowds of the visitors, who focus on the more famous pieces such as Michelangelo’s David or Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

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Painting “Incoronazione della Vergine” by Lorenzo Monaco in the Uffizi (1414)

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Close-Up of the Angels in Lorenzo Monaco’s Painting in the Uffizi

Once I started paying attention to the intricate details of the angels’ wings (I am fascinated by the gold swirls in the wings in the painting below), I also noticed additional details such as the elegant folds of a dress and the intricate gold border or the colorful background behind an angel.

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Close-Up of the Wings in the Triptych “Annunciation and Saints” by Lorenzo Monaco; 1410-1415

Now, when I see a painting of a Virgin (and especially when the theme is the Annunciation), I get excited and look for the wings of the angels to see what color combination and pattern the artist has decided on. With this focus over the last few weeks here in Florence, I have also learned that I especially like the wings painted by Lorenzo Monaco, Lorenzo the Monk. Who would have thought that I have a favorite painter when it comes to angels’ wings!? So if someone ever asks me about my favorite painter of wings, and in particular of angels’ wings, I have a definite and well-researched answer.