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Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Painting, 1907, 138×138 cm

Description of the artwork «Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I»

The Woman In Gold has been a real national symbol of Austria for many years. It has been just as popular and widespread as The Kiss, another famous picture by Klimt. Souvenir shops in Vienna teemed with a variety of items depicting this fatal beauty with her put up hair and languid heavy-lidded eyes. When Austria had to part with the painting, this event has become a nationwide tragedy. Many Austrians did not hold back their tears, when they watched The Woman In Gold leave to the USA. Intrigues and scandals accompanied the entire existence of this painting. In the very beginning, there was a story about revenge.

A legend has it that Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer learned about his wife Adele and Gustav Klimt having an affair, so he asked Klimt to make her portrait. The insulted and humiliated man came up with an ideal plan of revenge against the unfaithful wife and her lover. He promised an enormous fee to the artist for the unique art work; in order to make it, Klimt would have to spend so much time with Adele that he would get sick of her. Bloch-Bauer heard about the numerous mistresses of the artist and about the fact that none of them stayed with Klimt for a long time. In essence, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer has been a profitable investment, as well as an excellent way to take revenge on his wife, who was forced to watch her lover losing his passion with every passing day.  

After the German invasion to Austria in 1938, Nazis captured almost all the property of the Bloch-Bauer family. During the World War II, the Adele's portrait was concealed from the public because of the apparent Jewish origin of the model; after the war, it took its place in the Belvedere Gallery. The only surviving representative of the Bloch-Bauer family, the niece of Ferdinand and Adele, Maria Altman, who escaped Nazi persecution and became a US citizen, only learned in 1998 that she was the owner of the portrait by uncle's will. That was the beginning of the 8-year legal wrangling, which caused an international scandal. However, Maria Altman eventually managed to regain both The Woman In Gold, and other paintings by Klimt, bequeathed by Ferdinand. In the spring of 2015, a movie The Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds starring appeared on the screens. It relates the struggle of Maria Altman and her lawyer against the Austrian authorities.

Written by Yevheniia Sydelnykova 

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About the artwork

Alternative titles: Golden Adele

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Art Nouveau

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1907

Size: 138×138 cm

Artwork in selections: 136 selections

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