Thursday, February 9, 2017

Learning Dispatch - February 10th, 2017 - The Adele Bloch Bauer Painting

Why the dispatch? - I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new things we have learned. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907. Oil, silver, and gold on canvas. © 2015. Neue Galerie New York/Art Resource/Scala, Florence

The Story of a Painting

The 'Portrait of Adele Block Bauer I' is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt. I recently got an opportunity to visit the Neue Gallery in New York where this painting is on public display. On the way to the gallery, my sister told me about the story behind this painting. I was intrigued. I did not know paintings had stories to tell too.

The Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I, is like the Mona Lisa for the people of Austria. It belonged to a prominent Jewish Sugar Merchant who lived with his family in Vienna, Austria in the 1900's. His name was Ferdinand Bloch Bauer. In the summer of 1903, he commissioned the painter Gustav Klint to paint his wife's portrait whose name was Adele Bloch Bauer. 

This painting was forcefully taken away from the family, following the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer had to flee the country and settle down in Zurich. The painting was never returned back to him during his lifetime. The name of the painting was also changed to 'Woman in Gold' because of Klimt's heavy use of gold to depict Adele's outfit. The Neue Gallery website describes how in the painting, 'her hands are folded in such a way as to conceal a deformed finger, yet the gesture only adds to her mysterious grace.'