Rediscovered Portrait of a Young Female by Gustav Klimt Offered at Auction in Vienna

Friday, January 26, 2024
Rediscovered Portrait of a Young Female by Gustav Klimt Offered at Auction in Vienna

A painting by the iconic Austrian artist believed lost for approximately 100 years will be auctioned at Vienna's Auction House im Kinsky on April 24, 2024.

The auction house im Kinsky will present a rediscovered masterpiece of Austrian Modernism: the Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, one of the last works created by Gustav Klimt. The painting was previously considered lost. For many decades, this important work of art has been privately owned by an Austrian citizen, unknown to the public.

The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt's last creative period, is a sensation. As a key figure of Viennese Art Nouveau, Gustav Klimt epitomizes fin de siècle Austrian Modernism more than any other artist. His work, particularly his portraits of successful women from the upper middle class at the turn of the century, enjoy the highest recognition worldwide. Klimt's paintings rank in the top echelons of the international art market. His portraits of women are seldom offered at auctions. A painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades. This also applies to Austria, where no work of art of even approximate importance has been available.

Before the Portrait of Fräulein Lieser is offered in a special auction at the auction house im Kinsky in Vienna on April 24, 2024, it will travel worldwide. In cooperation with LGT Bank, the painting will be presented at various locations internationally; planned stops include Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.

After the painting returns to Vienna, it will be auctioned on April 24, 2024, on behalf of the current owners (Austrian private citizens) along with the legal successors of Adolf and Henriette Lieser based on an agreement in accordance with the Washington Principles of 1998.

im Kinsky, Austria's second-largest auction house, has established a reputation for outstanding expertise in Austrian Modernism over the more than thirty years since its founding.

That Gustav Klimt's late work is not being auctioned in London or New York, but represented by the much smaller Viennese auction house im Kinsky, is a recognition of its many years of experience in positioning Klimt's works and, significantly, its international expertise in dealing with works of art that were confiscated and seized during the Nazi era. With their historical knowledge of art and legal expertise, im Kinsky is well positioned to handle these sensitive projects and takes into account all interests and claims.

The portrait is documented in catalogs of Gustav Klimt's paintings but was only known to experts from a black-and-white photograph. Now, for the first time, the bright colors of the portrait can be seen. The painting is characterized by the vivid intensity that distinguishes Klimt's palette in his late creative years.

In the first catalogue raisonné of Klimt's paintings, published in 1967 by Fritz Novotny and Johannes Dobai, the sitter is labeled Fräulein Lieser. The authors of more recent catalogs of works (Weidinger 2007 and Natter 2012) have identified the sitter as Margarethe Constance Lieser (1899-1965), daughter of the industrial magnate Adolf Lieser. New research by the auction house into the history and provenance also opens up the possibility that Klimt's model could have been another member of the Lieser family: either Helene Lieser (1898-1962), the first-born of Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau and Justus Lieser, or their younger daughter, Annie Lieser (1901-1972).

The Lieser family belonged to the circle of wealthy, upper-class Viennese society in which Klimt found his patrons and clients. The brothers Adolf and Justus Lieser were among the leading industrialists of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau, known as Lilly, was married to Justus Lieser until 1905 and was a patron of the avant-garde. Catalogs of Klimt's paintings state that Adolf Lieser commissioned Gustav Klimt to paint a portrait of his eighteen-year-old daughter Margarethe Constance. However, there is some suggestion that the art-loving Lilly Lieser commissioned Klimt to immortalize one of her two daughters.

In April and May 1917, the sitter visited Klimt's studio in Hietzing nine times to pose for him. At least 25 preliminary studies were made. Klimt probably began the painting in May 1917. The painter chose a three-quarter portrait for his depiction and shows the young woman in a strictly frontal pose, close to the foreground, against a red, undefined background. A cape richly decorated with flowers is draped around her shoulders.

While Klimt depicts the face of Fräulein Lieser with precise strokes in a sensitive, naturalistic manner, other parts of the picture reflect the free, open brushwork of his late style. Strong complementary tones define the color palette. The intense colors of the painting and the shift towards loose, open brushstrokes show Klimt at the height of his late period.

When the painter died of a stroke on February 6, 1918, he left the painting—with small parts unfinished —in his studio. After Klimt's death, the painting was given to the family who had commissioned it.

The only known photograph of the painting is held in the archives of the Austrian National Library. It was likely taken in 1925 in connection with the Klimt exhibition by Otto Kallir-Nirenstein in the Neue Galerie, Vienna. The inventory card for the negative contains the note: "1925 in possession of Mrs. Lieser, IV, Argentinierstrasse 20." The exact fate of the painting after 1925 is unclear. What is known is that it was acquired by a legal predecessor of the consignor in the 1960s and went to the current owner through three successive inheritances.

Main Image :Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Fräulein Lieser est. € 30 Mio- 50 MIo

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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