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Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life

Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life
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Using tissue paper, glue, and black and white tempera paint, students will make mixed media art inspired by Gustav Klimt’s “Tree of Life”

By: Mrs Brown of

What You Need:

  • 12″ x 18″ white paper (poster paper)
  • tissue paper in warm colors
  • tempera paint (black, white, brown) 
  • paintbrushes
  • water containers and water
  • glue, old paintbrushes and old yogurt containers

What You Do:

Day 1:

Talk about Klimt (see info below).

Show children a picture of Klimt’s painting, “Tree of Life”. (See Background section below).

Talk about the Tree of Life symbol and what it represents.

Have children tear sheets of tissue paper into smaller pieces.

Then, encourage them to cover their sheet of white paper with tissue paper.

  • Brush a thin layer of the glue over the poster board. You may need to add a bit of water to the glue to make it runnier.
  • Lay one piece of tissue paper down at a time.
  • Brush over each one with glue and water.

Gustav Klimt Tree of Life art lesson plan.

When filled, let the papers dry.

Day 2:

Have students paint a “Y” shape on the middle of their tissue paper collages (using tempera paint).

Klimt Tree of Life art lesson plan for kids.

They can then add swirls to the ends of the “Y”.

Klimt Tree of Life art lesson plan for kids.

Encourage them to look at Klimt’s original painting and then add more swirls to their trees.

Klimt Tree of Life art lesson plan for kids. Klimt Tree of Life art lesson plan for kids.

Roots can be painted next.

Klimt Tree of Life art lesson plan for kids.

Finally, white and brown paint can be added to embellish the tree symbol.

Klimt Tree of Life art lesson plan for kids.


Gustav Klimt painted the “Tree of Life” which is an important symbol in nearly every culture.

The Tree of Life represents wisdom, protection, strength, and beauty. It reaches up into the sky and down into the earth. It links Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld.

The swirled branches make people want to keep looking at the painting to explore and find more.

Even with the mixed up patterns and swirly branches we still will always recognize it as The Tree of Life.

Gustav Klimt Tree of Life Oil on canvas, 1909 Location: Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria

Gustav Klimt
Tree of Life
Oil on canvas, 1909
Location: Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria


Note from KinderArt: SOME of Gustav Klimt’s works may not be suitable for young children. Be sure to research any images in books etc. before introducing them to children. We have chosen very suitable images for children and listed them below.

About Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter (born in 1862, died in 1918) and the founder of the school of painting known as the Vienna Sezession. Klimt’s early work was rather realistic in nature. Much of the paintings he did prior to 1898 were large murals commissioned by theaters. Later in his life, Klimt began to paint in a much more innovative and imaginative way until eventually his creations were very decorative and quite symbolic – meaning that many of the images in his work had hidden meaning. His most well-known work is “The Kiss”.

Additional Resources

The following images are very suitable for young children:

  • The Kiss
  • Accomplishment
  • L’Albero Della Vita
  • The Tree of Life

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  1. L. N. Carey says:

    Omg!!! I’m impressed with your website and all the good ideas that you have posted here for those looking to enrich the lives of our students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. I’m a Special Education teacher, and I have been assigned to teach art as well. I don’t have experience, and I want to ensure that the students have a strong foundation in the skills.

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