This painting tells a story about perseverance and fighting for the memory of the past.
One of the most remarkable accounts of art restitution in the modern day begins in 1903, when a Viennese fin-de-siècle artist, Gustav Klimt, is commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer to paint a portrait of his wife, Adele, a wealthy Jewish society woman. Before her passing in 1925, Adele requested in her will for her husband to leave the portrait to the Austrian State Gallery in Vienna after his death.
Interrupted by war, Ferdinand fled Vienna and his belonging were seized by the Nazi regime, which moved the portrait to the Galerie Belvedere in Vienna. To strip all reference to its Jewish subject matter, the gallery renamed the painting with “Dame in Gold” (“Lady in Gold”). After the war in 1998, the Austrian government introduced the Art Restitution Act to search for art stolen by the Nazis. However the government refused to acknowledge stolen art in their collections. With the help of an American lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg, Maria Altmann, Bloch-Bauer's niece, filed a civil claim against the Austrian government for the return of the painting. This was the first case when a private American citizen sued a foreign government.
The verdict was given, Maria Altman was the rightful owner of the painting. In March 2006, the painting was exported from Austria and exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That June, the work was sold to Ronald Lauder at a record price of $135 million. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is currently on permanent view at Neue Galerie in New York.
Sometime a year ago, I was working coatcheck at Neue Galerie. Now, I get to write about its most treasured work and its secrets of the past.
Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d’art. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body; his works are marked by a frank eroticism. Austrian painter Gustav Klimt was Vienna’s most renowned advocator of Art Nouveau, or, as the style was known in Germany, Jugendstil (“youth style”). He is remembered as one of the greatest decorative painters of the twentieth century, and he also produced one of the century’s most significant bodies of erotic art. Initially successful as a conventional academic painter, his encounter with more modern trends in European art encouraged him to develop his own eclectic and often fantastic style. His position as the co-founder and first president of the Vienna Secession also ensured that this style would become widely influential – though Klimt’s direct influence on other artists was limited. He never courted scandal, but it dogged his career, and although he never married, he is said to have fathered fourteen children. #gustavklimt#gustav#klimt#vienna#wien#austria#goldleaf#antique#art