Restituted Klimt painting to be offered at Sotheby’s

Gustav Klimt’s portrait Bildnis Gertrud Loew (1902) will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s London on 24th June in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. The painting, which has an estimate of £12-18 million, has been consigned for sale following a settlement between the Felsöványi family and The Gustav Klimt | Wien 1900-Privatstiftung (Klimt Foundation). 

Also that day the first painting restituted from Cornelius Gurlitt’s hoard, Max Liebermann’s Two Riders on a Beach, will also be auctioned in the same sale at Sotheby’s.

Peter Weinhäupl, Chair of the Board of Directors of The Klimt Foundation, said: “Mrs Ucicky and the Klimt Foundation are happy and grateful that a just and fair settlement was reached with the heirs of the Felsöványi family on the basis of the Washington Conference Principles and in accordance with our Foundation’s charter.”

The ethereal full length portrait is of Gertrud Loew aged 19, later known by her married name Gertha Felsöványi. It was commissioned by her farther, Dr Anton Loew. The family lived in a palatial residence adjoining the largest and grandest private sanatorium in Vienna where a number of important fin-de-siècle figures were treated, including Gustav Mahler and Klimt, as well as Ludwig Wittgenstein. In 1939 Gertrud was forced to leave Vienna for the United States, leaving her father’s – one of the first benefactors of the Secession movement – notable art collection behind her.

The collection was sold off under duress during the war. The Bildnis Gertrud Loew ended up being acquired by Gustav Ucicky, believed to be one of Klimt’s sons (his paternity was never confirmed), a film director who acquired many of his father’s works. After his death in 1961 his wife Ursula established the Klimt Foundation, and began extensive researching the provenance of the artworks.

Gertrud Felsöványi’s granddaughter, commenting on behalf of the family heirs in a statement released by Sotheby’s, said: “My father, Anthony Felsöványi, last saw this painting in June 1938 when he left the family home for the last time to depart for America. At that time my grandmother had been advised to leave her family home to live in a less grand home to try to avoid the attention of the Nazis, given her Jewish ancestry. Eventually, under duress, in 1939 she left Vienna altogether to join my father in America, having left all of her belongings behind – including this painting. Her home had been taken over as a Nazi headquarters and she had left her valuable belongings with friends and acquaintances. After the war, she never returned to Vienna.”

She added, “My father recalled that throughout his childhood the painting was displayed in the entrance hall of their family home. It was displayed prominently on a stand rather than hung on the wall, and faced out to the gardens. While sadly my father is no longer alive, having died two years ago aged ninety-eight, this settlement would have meant a great deal to him, as it does to me and the other family heirs with whom this settlement has been agreed. Before his death my father had wanted to thank Mrs Ucicky for her longstanding desire to work towards this settlement, and our family wishes to thank her as well as the researchers and others involved in bringing about this resolution.”

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