(klimtgallery.org) We happened to see them both in what I would call reverse order–painting first, then the film about its theft by the Nazis and its restitution to its original owners’ heir, Maria Altmann, but it worked just fine. Seeing this brilliant work up close whetted our appetites for a movie that Rory worried would be too procedural for his taste. But it wasn’t; it was a great film and informed our earlier views of the painting. We will go back and see it again of course but what an experience.
Klimt had always seemed to me a bit dressy for my taste–kind of overly pretty–but this painting is stunning in its effect, particularly the contrast between the soft naturalistic face and the formal, Byzantine-like robes she wears. This is no accident–Klimt was apparently fascinated by Byzantine art. Klimt’s painting of the wealthy Jewish wife of Austria’s biggest sugar producer, The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, was known for years simply as “The Woman in Gold” to distance her from her Jewish origins for the Nazis who stole her, then later the Austrians. Only now, after an internationally celebrated case has she regained her identity; she is on view permanently in New York’s Neue Galerie, thanks to Ronald Lauder who bought her and established her there in his museum.
Also currently in the Galerie is a stupendous exhibit of Russian Modernism influenced heavily by German Expressionism, Cubism, French Impressionism and other art movements from 1907-1917. We saw wonderful paintings, drawings and woodcuts by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, (pinterest.com) Natalia Goncharova, (nytimes.com), Vasily Kandinsky
(artobserved.com) and many other lesser known masters like Gabriel Munter (architecturaldigest.com). If you haven’t been to this museum on East 86th Street just off Fifth, it’s a little gem and half price at $10 for seniors.
The film, called Woman in Gold, tells the story of Maria Altmann’s struggle to regain the Portrait of Adele and five other Klimts taken from her father’s house in Vienna. These paintings were among hundreds of thousands of art works looted by the Nazis, many of which have never been returned to their real owners. Maria escaped the Nazis and lived a long life in Los Angeles; only towards its end did she retain a young lawyer and family friend, Randol Schoenberg (who happens to be the grandson of Arnold Schoenberg) to battle Vienna’s Belvedere Museum and ultimately Austria itself. (telegraph.co.uk) This is an enthralling account of a remarkable successful achievement, taking us through US courts, including the Supreme Court, as we view flashbacks of the luxurious life Maria led in Vienna (mysanantonio.com) interspersed with the terrors of the Holocaust. It is no surprise that the always great Helen Mirren steals the picture (pardon the pun) but Ryan Reynolds is surprisingly good as her lawyer and the film was sprinkled with great actors. We grieve, we cheer and we thrill at the final restitution (Austria itself does the decent thing). See the film and the paining or do it in reverse as we did. Either way, be grateful that we live in the best city in the world where we can do both a few blocks apart.
#Woman in Gold
#Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer