Heirs Sell Klimt 'Gertrud'

LONDON -- An important portrait by the Secessionist artist Gustav Klimt is to go under the hammer following a settlement between the Felsovanyi Heirs and The Klimt Foundation, Vienna.

Sotheby’s London have announced that Klimt’s understatedly beautiful painting Bildnis (Portrait) Gertrud Loew,1902, will be offered for sale in its 24th June Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are impressed with the fine quality of the upcoming Sotheby's sale.

The painting (est. £12-18 million / $18.5-27.7 million) depicts the ethereal figure of Gertrud Loew, later known by her married name Gertha Felsovanyi, a member of fin-de-siecle Viennese society, wreathed in diaphanous folds of gossamer fabric.

Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Worldwide said: “Gustav Klimt’s exquisite and ingenious representations of women have led to him become the most celebrated painter of the female portrait of the early 20th Century. Bildnis Gertrud Loew, from a crucial period in the artist’s career, is one his finest portraits to appear at auction in over twenty years.”

Gertrud Felsöványi’s granddaughter, commenting on behalf of the family heirs, said:

"This portrait portrays the brave and determined nature of my grandmother. Her strength of character and beauty lives on in this visual embodiment. 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."

Prominent Family

Bildnis Gertrud Loew was commissioned by Gertrud’s father Dr Anton Loew -- one of the most celebrated physicians in Vienna.

The Loew family lived in a palatial residence adjoining the Sanitorium Loew -- the largest and grandest private sanatorium in Vienna where a number of important fin-de-siècle figures were treated, including Gustav Mahler and Gustav Klimt, as well as Ludwig Wittgenstein.

The success of the Sanitorium enabled Anton Loew to acquire some of the greatest masterpieces of the time, including Ferdinand Hodler’s Der Auserwählte (now in the Kunstmuseum, Bern) and a further important work by Gustav Klimt, Judith I (now housed in the Belvedere, Vienna).

He had also commissioned the artist Koloman Moser to design Gertrud and her first husband’s apartment in the Wiener Werkstätte style, but following Anton’s death, Gertrud moved back to the family’s residence where she continued to run the Sanatorium.

Gertrud Loew, known as Gertha, was nineteen years old when she was painted by Gustav Klimt in 1902.

In 1903, Gertha married Hans Eisler von Terramare in the Minoritenkirche in Vienna. After the early death of the couple’s only daughter Gertrude, the marriage fell apart.

Gertha moved back into the family residence next to the Sanitorium and took over the running of the Sanatorium after Dr Anton Loew’s death in 1907.

In 1912, she married the Hungarian industrialist Elemér Baruch von Felsöványi with whom she had three children. In November 1923, her husband caught pneumonia returning from a nightclub without an overcoat and died a few days later.

When the Nazis arrived in Vienna, she came under increasing pressure due to her Jewish ancestry, and in early 1939 reluctantly agreed to leave Vienna for exile in the United States, leaving the entire Felsöványi art collection behind.

When Gertrud’s daughter, Maria, returned to Vienna after the war to reclaim her family’s property, she discovered that it had all been sold by her mother’s friend -- herself under duress by persecution -- and the Felsöványi family was not able to retrieve a single work of art.

Refugee From Nazis

Although her son Anthony was already living in America, Gertha was denied an entry visa and was not allowed to disembark when she docked in New York harbor. It was only through the intercession of Eleanor Roosevelt that she was allowed a day pass to spend Christmas 1939 with her son.

She continued her journey to Colombia and spent time as a French teacher in Barranquilla while she waited for the grant of a US visa.

In June 1940, she arrived in the USA where she started a new life, working nightshifts. Having learned about the losses of her father’s legacy, Gertha Felsöványi never returned to Austria. She died in Menlo Park, California in March 1964 at the age of 80.

Acquired by Klimt Son

Untraceable by the Felsöványi family, Bildnis Gertrud Loew had been acquired by Gustav Ucicky, one of Gustav Klimt’s sons by Maria Ucicka who had modeled for the artist.

Gustav Ucicky was a film director who rose to prominence during the Weimar Republic. He acquired a considerable number of works by his father, which he left to his wife Ursula after his death in 1961.

In 2013, Ursula Ucicky established the Gustav Klimt Foundation (Gustav Klimt | Wien 1900-Privatstiftung) -- the enterprise which housed this painting, and other works. It is also a non-profit cultural, art historical, scientific and educational center.

In addition to aiming to preserve and research the life and oeuvre of Gustav Klimt, Ursula Ucicky wished to research the history of the acquisition of the artworks in the collection, enlisting notable provenance experts to carry out the research.

Following extensive research, a recent settlement between the Felsöványi family and the Klimt Foundation was reached under the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. This settlement included an agreement that Bildnis Gertrud Loew would be offered for sale, with proceeds given to the heirs.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video explores the floating lines, surface, and symbolism which characterize Klimt's paintings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz4dB8KVdzs&sns=em