The Woman in Gold shimmers in the afternoon sunlight. I stand so close that I can see each delicate golden and silver brushstroke of Gustave Klimt’s masterpiece that took him three years to complete: the full-length portrait of a young and elegant Adele Bloch-Bauer. Inspired by a Byzantine mosaic of the Empress Theodora, Klimt has painted Adele enthroned on a golden chair, adorned her with lavish jewels, and dressed her in the avant-garde fashion of early 1900s Vienna, a swirling evening gown of geometric shapes and Egyptian symbols.
Adele’s beauty is only darkened by the look of weariness that clouds her face. She seems to struggle to keep her eyes open, fighting against an overwhelming exhaustion. It is as if her portrait had glimpsed into the future, as if it knew the turbulent fate that lay in store for her family and for the painting itself.
That story is captured in this year’s film Woman in Gold. The film recounts the valiant fight by Adele’s niece Maria Altmann after WWII to reclaim her family’s Klimt paintings that the Nazis stole. Thanks to Maria’s efforts, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I now resides in the Neue Galerie in Manhattan. After seeing the movie, I knew I had to pay a visit to the museum to admire the painting in person. [Read more…]