Klimt’s unfinished works in the Belvedere


The show is “spatially small, but significant in terms of art history and institution history,” said Belvedere General Director Stella Rollig at the presentation on Wednesday. Not least because of this, it is hoped that the show will be spared from a possible renewed lockdown. At the center of the small exhibition is a very special loan.

The picture “Lady with a Fan” was no longer seen in Austria for over 100 years. For imports to Austria, the work was given a temporary immunity – according to Rollig, not so unusual. After all, the work was auctioned in New York in 1994 for 9.3 million euros without even having an export permit from Austria.

Photo gallery with 4 pictures

APA / Herbert Neubauer

Exhibition visitors in front of the picture

APA / Herbert Neubauer

Visitor photographs Klimt pictures

APA / Herbert Neubauer

An exhibition visitor in front of the picture

APA / Herbert Neubauer

Chain of provenance incomplete

The provenance chain is incomplete, as Rollig explained. In any case, confiscation during the Nazi era could be ruled out, since the work had been owned by Heinrich Böhler’s family in Switzerland since the 1920s, where it remained until the 1960s. What is certain is that it was also in the Leopold Collection for a short time afterwards.

Rudolf Leopold received a temporary export license for the work in 1981 in order to show “Lady with a Fan” in Tokyo and has demonstrably brought the work back to Austria. Rollig describes the time after this as a “phase of uncertainty”. However, she does not see herself as “an investigative force who picks up on Ms. Leopold in this regard”.

Owners want to remain anonymous

As the collector’s widow told the “Standard”, Rudolf Leopold sold the work “through a dealer in Vienna”. At that time one was in dire financial need because of the debts and the heavy interest burden. In any case, in 1994 the Klimt painting was auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York. At the time, the authorities investigated the alleged lack of an export license, but discontinued the proceedings because the persons involved could not be traced. Nevertheless, this question hovered like a sword of Damocles over a possible presentation in Austria.

The current owners want to remain anonymous, the work may be shown in the Belvedere for one year. There it was reunited with the work that Klimt left unfinished in his studio when he suddenly died in February 1918. This is also evidenced by a photo that can also be seen in the exhibition. It shows the “Lady with a Fan” next to “The Bride”, which has been on permanent loan to the Belvedere since 1971.

Last works with a “special aura”

In addition to these two works, however, there are other unfinished works in the exhibition: “Amalia Zuckerkandl”, “Adam and Eve” and the “Lady in White” have preliminary drawings and empty spaces. “The last works of an artist always have a special aura,” says Rollig.

Exhibition “Lady with a Fan. Gustav Klimt’s Last Works ”in the Upper Belvedere. March 25, 2021 to February 13, 2022.

In a showcase there is also an insight into Klimt’s sketchbooks, in which preparatory work for the exhibited works can be seen. For curator Markus Fellinger, the show is “a very special event,” as he said at the press conference. At that time, Klimt was “pulled straight out of work”. “It is a huge gain to see these pictures united again”.

Comprehensive picture from the last creative period

There are also two reproductions of “Wally” (1916) and “Freundinnen II” (1916/17) that were destroyed in a fire in 1945. This gives a comprehensive picture of Klimt’s last creative period. From October the exhibition will be supplemented by a further component and illuminates Klimt’s affinity to East Asian art styles. Who the “lady with a fan” is, by the way, remains hidden.

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Klimts unfinished works Belvedere


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