Gustav Klimt: Yearning for the countryside

The renowned lakeside summer retreat of Attersee was the embodiment of early 20th century savoir vivre. It was also an annual fixture for Gustav Klimt and the Flöge family. Two wicker chairs bear special witness to the era. 

“I am yearning for the outdoors like never before…” wrote Gustav Klimt on a postcard to Emilie Flöge in early August in the summer of 1901, as he longed to be able to escape the heat of the city and go to Attersee. He and the Flöge family had spent their first summer with the Paulick family in Seewalchen am Attersee the year before. From then on, until 1916, the ties of family and friendship between the Flöges, Klimts and Paulicks saw the families return frequently to the meeting place for intellectuals and artists on the Attersee.

Two wicker armchairs used by Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge in the garden in front of Villa Oleander (1908-12) and at the Forester’s House in Weissenbach (1914-16) on Lake Attersee
Two wicker armchairs used by Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge in the garden in front of Villa Oleander (1908-12) and at the Forester’s House in Weissenbach (1914-16) on Lake Attersee

Before 1907, Klimt spent the summer months staying at the Bräuhof Litzlberg, close to the Villa Paulick.  In 1908, as the artist’s finances improved and he felt a greater need for privacy, the Flöge family and Gustav Klimt moved their summer quarters to Kammerl bei Kammer on the more elegant western shore of the Attersee. They stayed there in the Villa Oleander, from mid-June to mid-September every year until 1912. From their first year there, Klimt was working on what is probably his best-known Gesamtkunstwerk – the drafts and blueprints for the dining room freeze at Stoclet Palace in Brussels. Preparations and work on this project forced him repeatedly to postpone his visits to Attersee. By 1914, he was starting to feel almost like someone “sentenced to forced labour for life” and he feared he would never see the countryside again as his work denied him the possibility of leaving Vienna. Fortunately, things turned out differently. In 1914, the guest house at the Villa Brauner in nearby Weissenbach became a new haven of tranquillity for him, while also becoming a place of great productivity – he would create twelve paintings there.

Hermann Flöge, an unknown, Barbara Flöge, Therese Flöge, Gustav Klimt, Hermine Flöge, Otto Prutscher and Pauline Flöge in Weißenbach am Attersee, 1914.
© Austrian Archives / brandstaetter images /

Among the photographs from that time, one from 1910 is particularly striking. It shows the summer guests Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge in the garden of the Villa Oleander, with two wicker chairs in the background. The same chairs also appear in another photograph, from 1914 in which the large Flöge family can be seen at a garden party in Weissenbach am Attersee. Helene, the sister of Emilie and Hermann Flöge, had married Gustav Klimt’s younger brother, Ernst, in 1891. When Ernst died at a young age, Gustav Klimt became the guardian of his niece Helene, who was also known as “Lentschi”. As his heir and also the heir of Emilie Flöge, Helene Klimt, whose married was name Donner, inherited the wicker chairs, which had probably been owned by Emilie Flöge’s family. After Helene’s death in 1980, her house in Weissenbach am Attersee, Gmauret 7, was cleared and sold by her heirs.

There was no space in the removal company’s van for the two wicker armchairs and so they were given as a gift to the gardener and caretaker, who had maintained the property for many years. The chairs were made at Korbfabrikation Prag-Rudniker and were always referred to as “the Klimt chairs”. Until last year, they were on display at the Gustav Klimt Center, a partner of the Leopold Museum on the Attersee.


Jugendstil and 20th Century Arts and Crafts
11 December 2023, 3 p.m.
Palais Dorotheum, Dorotheergasse 17, 1010 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-515 60-383

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