The Tree of Life, 1905 by Gustav Klimt
The concept of the tree of life is illustrated by Gustav Klimt's painting, in a bold and original manner. The swirling branches create mythical symbolism, suggesting the perpetuity of life. The branches twist, twirl, turn, spiral and undulate, creating a tangle of strong branches, long vines and fragile threads, an expression of life's complexity. With its branches reaching for the sky, the tree of life roots into the earth beneath, creating the connection between heaven and earth, a concept often used to explain the concept of the tree of life, in many cultures, religions and ideologies. The tree of life illustrated by Klimt also creates another connection, with the underworld, signifying the final determinism governing over any living thing, that is born, grows, and then returns back into the earth.
While many talk about the symbol of unity in Gustav Klimt' The Tree of Life, there are others that consider it an expression of masculine and feminine. The feminine expressed in the painting symbolizes sustenance, care and growth, while the masculine is expressed through the use of phallic representations. From this different union, life is born, and the tree of life, as well.
Others say that the painting symbolizes the union between man's greatest virtues, which are strength, wisdom and beauty. The tree reaching for the sky is a symbol of man's perpetual yearning for becoming more, yet his roots are still bound to the earth.
One of the important qualities of The Tree of Life is that it challenges the viewer to spend more time admiring the painting, while gauging all its meanings. While the artist uses a richness of symbols, gold for paint and other luxurious techniques to illustrate a magical world, the presence of a single black bird draws the viewer towards the central part of the painting. The black bird is a reminder that everything that has a beginning also has an end, as black birds have been used as a symbol of death by many cultures.
The Tree of life is among the most recognisable from Gustav Klimt's career,