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“Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” by Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt 046

“Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” by Gustav Klimtalso also called “The Lady in Gold” or “The Woman in Gold” is a portrait commissioned by Adele’s husband. This picture is the most significant representative work of Klimt’s golden phase. It was the first of two depictions of Adele by Klimt.

Klimt drew over a hundred preparatory sketches for the portrait starting is 1903. During that year, Klimt visited the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna where he studied the early-Christian Byzantine gold mosaics of Justinian I and his wife, Empress Theodora. The mosaics made a deep impression on Klimt. Klimt later said that the:

“mosaics of unbelievable splendour” were a “revelation”.

Klimt undertook more preparatory work for this portrait than any other piece he worked on. This painting was completed using an elaborate technique of using gold and silver leaf and then adding decorative motifs in bas-relief using gesso. Klimt finished the work in1907, almost five years after his initial preparatory sketches.

Adel died in 1925 and following the Anschluss of Austria by Nazi Germany, Adele’s husband fled to Vienna, and made his way to Switzerland, leaving behind his extensive art collection. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941, along with the remainder of Ferdinand’s assets. The lawyer acting on behalf of the German state gave the portrait to the Galerie Belvedere, claiming he was following the wishes Adele had made in her will. Ferdinand, her husband, died in 1946 and his will stated that his estate should go to his nephew and two nieces.  In 2006, following eight years of effort by the Bloch-Bauer heirs, the painting was returned to the family. In 2015 the story of how this painting returned to the family was dramatised in the famous film “Woman in Gold” starring Helen Mirren.

Gustav Klimt was a symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by eroticism. Klimt was influenced by Japanese art and its methods and achieved success with the paintings of his “golden phase”, many of which include gold leaf. “The Kiss” is Klimt’s most famous painting.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
  • Artist:              Gustav Klimt
  • Created:          1907
  • Medium:         Oil, silver and gold on canvas
  • Dimensions:   180 cm × 180 cm
  • Museum:         Neue Galerie New York

Artist:

  • Name:            Gustav Klimt
  • Born:             1862 – Baumgarten, Austrian Empire
  • Died:              1918 (aged 55) – Vienna, Austria-Hungary
  • Nationality:  Imperial Austrian
  • Movement:   Symbolism, Art Nouveau
  • Notable work:

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit 1) Gustav Klimt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons