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While observing Pear Tree, by Gustav Klimt and Rocky Mountains, by Albert Bierstadt, It is quite evident to spot innumerable differences between the two works. However, there are also some similarities between both paintings that hide beyond the differences. These similarities rest within the formatting and stylistic choices of the artist’s, the pieces’ historical contexts, the imaginative aspects of the work, and the audiences for whom they were intended.
The clear/visible similarities between the two works of art is the fact that both pieces are landscapes as well as the artist’s interesting choice to place the landscapes on a non-traditional format; in the case of Klimt, a square and in the case of Bierstadt a vertical rectangle, as opposed to a horizontal format. Stylistically the two paintings are also similar, for example both works are oil on a form of canvas—Rocky Mountains on linen and Pear Tree on canvas; and both represent a beautiful and ideal place within the artists’ eyes.
However the differences between the settings and styles, with the main difference being the fact that the works are representative of two different places; a pear orchard and a mountain range; becomes evident through more research. Rocky Mountains has no true meaning in the format of the painting, except for the fact that it was most likely the most aesthetically pleasing format and could relate to the fact that the mountains pictured were erected through photographs, sketches, and memory. A possibility of it’s vertical format being that fact that photos were most likely vertical as were the papers used to sketch; therefore, it may be reasonable to conclude the format of the painting was predetermined by the evidence used to create it. Rocky Mountains was also created with a careful attention to detail and realism in the depiction of it’s content, although the range depicted is not an existing mountain range, rather an imagined one, as though to evoke sensations of divinity and idealism.
Pear Tree, though, has a meaning behind the format of its landscape, instead of choosing the traditional horizontal format; Klimt decided to choose a square to depict his painting. A square is a pure geometric shape, and at the time it represented the Vienna Secession’s dominant decorative motif. Stylistically it’s different because it is a post-impressionist piece of work, which was created to suggest to the viewer that they are observing an ancient Byzantine mosaic. Also, rather than attention to realism and detail, Klimt sporadically places dots and dribbles of paint around a canvas to create an almost symbolic landscape—for every dot/speck of paint either represents a leaf, a blossom, or a piece of fruit, it takes much contemplating and speculating to realize what the work depicts. It is also important to note that Gustav Klimt proceeded to edit his work throughout the 19 teens, whereas Bierstadt did not.
Beyond the surface similarities, though, lie deeper, more historical similarities. For example, both works were created during the brink of war, Pear tree during the Serbian Austrian friction and through part of World War 1 and Rocky Mountains, during the peak of the American Civil War.
Dissimilarly, though, Rocky Mountains was created as an edenic landscape that evokes feelings of hope and opportunity, while at the same time promising new beginnings. Whereas Pear Tree, was created free from historical ties, and it is unsure whether or not it is a statement of peace and tranquility during a time of despair and atrocity, or a painting with no reference to the dawn of new beginnings after war.
Interestingly though, Pear Tree was created during a time where art was encouraged to separate from it’s historical ties, therefore it is probable to conclude that Klimt’s work has no true historical message, or isn’t a form of propaganda. However, It was created to resemble an ancient Byzantine mosaic, as discussed above, which was an empire that was once expanded into Austria, giving the piece a hidden historical context/relation. More interestingly though, was the choice Klimt made to tie both history and the movement to separate history from art together through formatting his painting on a pure geometric shape, which was representative of the Vienna Secession.
Further expanding on the works’ similarities, both pieces represent a form of landscape that exists in some form but is purely created through one’s memory. For example, Pear Tree represents an orchard of pear trees; pear orchards are an existing entity; however Gustav Klimt was creating the orchard from memory and imagination. Similarly, the mountain ranges depicted in Rocky Mountains are existing landforms but they were not painted through observation of the landscape itself, but rather, imagination, photography, and sketches/drawings.
Differently, however, Rocky Mountains depicts a montage of several different mountain ranges, lakes, and places that were compiled during a government survey expedition. Therefore, this piece is not a painting of an existing landscape, rather an imagined one. Pear Tree, on the other hand, is not a montage of different orchards, rather one orchard that was imagined, or potentially remembered and was not created from direct observation of a particular orchard.
The final similarity between the two works is their intended audiences. Both works were created initially for a private audience, as Rocky Mountains was displayed in Bierstadt’s studio and Pear Tree was given to Klimt’s muse and mistress.
Differently, though, Rocky Mountains, if ever to have been observed by the public eye, it was intended for a mainly east-coast audience as it explored the promising future of the west. Whereas Klimt’s work was created mainly for pleasure rather than a specific set of eyes or audience members—although it was meant to influence the separation of art from historical context and to suggest that art is evolving with the evolution of the world and it’s population.
In conclusion, although both pieces of art are vastly different, with their differences ranging from style, to content, to meaning, as well as aesthetically and representationally different, they are also very similar. Pear Tree and Rocky mountains have similarities that appear within the subtopics of their differences that are both visible to the eye, but also hidden within the paintings and their histories.
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