Saturday, May 16, 2015

Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold

Neue Galerie. NYC April 2, 2015-September 7, 2015

Note: Although the exhibition "Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold" is only on view through September 7, the painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt is on permanent view at the Neue Galerie.

"Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold" is an intimate exhibition devoted to the close relationship that existed between the artist and one of his key subjects and patrons. Included in the exhibition is a display of I, paintings, related drawings, vintage photographs, decorative arts, and archival material.

This exhibition coincides with the opening of the historical drama "Woman in Gold," starring Helen Mirren as Adele Bloch-Bauer's niece Maria Altmann, and Ryan Reynolds as lawyer Randol Schoenberg. The film is based upon the true story of how Altmann, working in collaboration with Schoenberg, successfully sued the Austrian Government for the return of five Klimt paintings seized by the Nazis from the Bloch-Bauer family townhouse in Vienna during World War II.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) is one of the most important artists of fin-de-siècle Vienna. Trained at Vienna's Kunstgewerbeschule, Klimt began his career in a traditional and historicist style, but quickly emerged as one of Vienna's preeminent modern artists, creating ebullient landscapes, striking portraits, and erotic drawings of women. Klimt was a key figure in Vienna's art scene, and is one whose artistic achievements and mentorship paved the way for painters Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele.

"Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold" is displayed on the second floor of the museum and is comprised of approximately 50 works, including the Adele Bloch-Bauer I, paintings, related drawings, vintage photographs, decorative arts, as well as archival material. The show is organized by Janis Staggs, Associate Director of Curatorial and Publications at Neue Galerie New York. The highlight of this display is Klimt's stunning 1907 "golden style" portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, as well as related sketches prepared during the four years that he worked on this iconic masterpiece. The exhibition also features a number of rare photographs of Klimt and material about the Bloch-Bauer family.

Adele Bloch-Bauer possesses the rare distinction as the only person Klimt ever painted twice.

(Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II is a 1912 painting by Gustav Klimt.)

Following the outcry surrounding Klimt's most controversial public commission-three faculty paintings that were to be installed in the Great Hall of Vienna University (Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence, 1900-07)-Klimt withdrew from government projects and focused his energies on private portrait commissions of society women from Vienna's cultural elite.

Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer assembled one of Vienna's most renowned art collections, which included paintings by masters of Vienna's Biedermeier period, modern sculpture, an impressive array of porcelain from the Royal Vienna Porcelain Factory, and a stellar group of works by Klimt, including the two portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer and also landscapes. The Klimt paintings originally hung in Adele's private apartment in the couple's Vienna home.

Klimt's 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was acquired for Neue Galerie New York in 2006. At the time of the acquisition, the museum's President and co-founder, Ronald S. Lauder, stated: "With this dazzling painting, Klimt created one of his greatest works of art." During the years that Klimt labored over the commission, he spent time in Ravenna, Italy, where he visited the sixth-century Church of San Vitale. He was deeply impressed by the richly decorated Byzantine mosaics of the Empress Theodora and described them as of "unprecedented splendor." His first portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer incorporates jewel-like areas that resemble semi-precious stones and layers of lustrous gold and silver.