Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Gertrud Loew’ to Be Auctioned

New York Times 2 June 2015

By Roslyn Sulcas

Klimt's “Portrait of Gertrud Loew,” painted in 1902. Credit Sotheby's

London — A painting by Gustav Klimt that has been in private hands for over a century will be auctioned at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale here on June 24. The work, “Portrait of Gertrud Loew,” painted in 1902, has an estimated sale price of 12 million to 18 million pounds (about $18 million to $28 million), and is for sale as a result of a settlement between the Felsovanyi family, the heirs of the painting’s subject, and the Klimt Foundation.

The painting depicts the 19-year-old daughter of a well-known Viennese physician, Dr. Anton Loew, who had treated Klimt (along with the composer Gustav Mahler and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein) in his private sanatorium. The painting remained in the family until Gertrud Loew, widowed after marrying a Hungarian industrialist, Elemer Baruch von Felsovanyi, left Vienna for the United States in 1939, fleeing Nazi persecution.

The painting passed into the hands of Gustav Ucicky, a film director and one of Klimt’s sons, who acquired a number of his father’s works. After his death in 1961, the collection was left to his wife, Ursula, who established the Klimt Foundation in 2013.

“A condition of Mrs. Ucicky’s gift to the foundation was that their provenance would be resolved,” Lucian Simmons, the worldwide head of restitution for Sotheby’s, said in a telephone interview. “There was a broad effort on her part to find a resolution.”

Mr. Simmons added that an additional five drawings by Klimt that the foundation owns are being transferred back to the Felsovanyi family as part of the agreement between the two parties. The proceeds of the auction will be shared by the foundation and the family, although Mr. Simmons said he was not party to the details of the agreement.

Helena Newman, a co-head of worldwide Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s, said that the price estimate was in line with an unfinished oil portrait of Ria Munk that sold for about $29 million in 2010. “There is very little to compare this painting to, as most Klimts are in museums and portraits are really rare,” Ms. Newman said in a telephone interview.

The painting, which shows the young Gertrud Loew in a blue-trimmed gauzy dress, is “stylistically coming out of the 19th century,” and predates Klimt’s gold period, Ms. Newman said. (In 2006, Ronald S. Lauder paid $135 million for Klimt’s 1907 “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” an example of that period, for the Neue Galerie in New York.)

“This is one of the few remaining opportunities to buy a full-worked oil portrait by Klimt, and the story of the restitution is part of its commercial value, because it hasn’t changed hands and comes to auction completely fresh,” Ms. Newman said.®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article
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