Art & History

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I – Gustav Klimt | [HR] Painting

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (also called The Lady in Gold or The Woman in Gold) is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt. The first of two portraits Klimt painted of Bloch-Bauer, it has been referred to as the final and most fully representative work of his golden phase. It is on display at the Neue Galerie in New York City as part of the largest Klimt collection in the U.S.

Adele Bloch-Bauer (1881–1925) was a wealthy member of Viennese society and a patron and close friend of Gustav Klimt. Klimt originally titled the painting as Adele Bloch-Bauer, but Nazi soldiers seized the painting from the Bloch-Bauer home and displayed it in the early 1940s, removing the name and instead calling it The Woman in Gold so that it could be displayed without referencing a prominent Jewish family.

This painting, which took three years to complete, was commissioned by the wealthy industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who made his money in the sugar industry. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer favored the arts, especially Klimt, and commissioned him to complete another portrait of his wife Adele in 1912. Adele Bloch-Bauer was the only person to be painted twice by Klimt.

This painting is perhaps most famous not for its artistic quality, but because of its scandalous history since inception. Upon her death, Adele Bloch-Bauer wished the painting to be given to the Austrian State Gallery, but it was seized by advancing German forces in World War II. In 1945, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer designated the paintings to be the property of his nephew and nieces, including Maria Altmann.

Nonetheless, the Austrian government retained ownership of the painting, and was not returned to the Altmann family until 2006 after a long court battle. The painting was then sold at auction for $135 million dollars, which at that time was the highest price paid at auction for a painting. It is now displayed the Neue Art Gallery in New York.

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