Auction House

Rediscovered Portrait of a Young Female by Gustav Klimt Offered in Special Auction at Vienna's Auction House im Kinsky

A painting by the iconic Austrian artist believed lost for approximately 100 years will be auctioned at Vienna's Auction House im Kinsky on April 24, 2024.

Vienna, 25.01.2024: The auction house im Kinsky will present a rediscovered masterpiece of Austrian Modernism: the Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, one of the last works created by Gustav Klimt. The painting was previously considered lost. For many decades, this important work of art has been privately owned by an Austrian citizen, unknown to the public.

Gustav Klimt
Portrait of Fräulein Lieser
€ 30 Mio- 50 Mio

The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt's last creative period, is a sensation. As a key figure of Viennese Art Nouveau, Gustav Klimt epitomizes fin de siècle Austrian Modernism more than any other artist. His work, particularly his portraits of successful women from the upper middle class at the turn of the century, enjoy the highest recognition worldwide. Klimt's paintings rank in the top echelons of the international art market. His portraits of women are seldom offered at auctions. A painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades. This also applies to Austria, where no work of art of even approximate importance has been available.

Before the Portrait of Fräulein Lieser is offered in a special auction at the auction house im Kinsky in Vienna on April 24, 2024, it will travel worldwide. In cooperation with LGT Bank, the painting will be presented at various locations internationally; planned stops include Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.

After the painting returns to Vienna, it will be auctioned on April 24, 2024, on behalf of the current owners (Austrian private citizens) along with the legal successors of Adolf and Henriette Lieser based on an agreement in accordance with the Washington Principles of 1998.

im Kinsky, Austria's second-largest auction house, has established a reputation for outstanding expertise in Austrian Modernism over the more than thirty years since its founding.

That Gustav Klimt's late work is not being auctioned in London or New York, but represented by the much smaller Viennese auction house im Kinsky, is a recognition of its many years of experience in positioning Klimt's works and, significantly, its international expertise in dealing with works of art that were confiscated and seized during the Nazi era. With their historical knowledge of art and legal expertise, im Kinsky is well positioned to handle these sensitive projects and takes into account all interests and claims.

Watch the Press Conference

From Black and White to Vibrant Color

The portrait is documented in catalogs of Gustav Klimt's paintings but was only known to experts from a black-and-white photograph. Now, for the first time, the bright colors of the portrait can be seen. The painting is characterized by the vivid intensity that distinguishes Klimt's palette in his late creative years.

Klimt's Model: Miss Lieser

In the first catalogue raisonné of Klimt's paintings, published in 1967 by Fritz Novotny and Johannes Dobai, the sitter is labeled Fräulein Lieser. The authors of more recent catalogs of works (Weidinger 2007 and Natter 2012) have identified the sitter as Margarethe Constance Lieser (1899-1965), daughter of the industrial magnate Adolf Lieser. New research by the auction house into the history and provenance also opens up the possibility that Klimt's model could have been another member of the Lieser family: either Helene Lieser (1898-1962), the first-born of Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau and Justus Lieser, or their younger daughter, Annie Lieser (1901-1972).

Klimt's Patrons

The Lieser family belonged to the circle of wealthy, upper-class Viennese society in which Klimt found his patrons and clients. The brothers Adolf and Justus Lieser were among the leading industrialists of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau, known as Lilly, was married to Justus Lieser until 1905 and was a patron of the avant-garde. Catalogs of Klimt's paintings state that Adolf Lieser commissioned Gustav Klimt to paint a portrait of his eighteen-year-old daughter Margarethe Constance. However, there is some suggestion that the art-loving Lilly Lieser commissioned Klimt to immortalize one of her two daughters.

An Outstanding Portrait From the Last Creative Period

In April and May 1917, the sitter visited Klimt's studio in Hietzing nine times to pose for him. At least 25 preliminary studies were made. Klimt probably began the painting in May 1917. The painter chose a three-quarter portrait for his depiction and shows the young woman in a strictly frontal pose, close to the foreground, against a red, undefined background. A cape richly decorated with flowers is draped around her shoulders.

While Klimt depicts the face of Fräulein Lieser with precise strokes in a sensitive, naturalistic manner, other parts of the picture reflect the free, open brushwork of his late style. Strong complementary tones define the color palette. The intense colors of the painting and the shift towards loose, open brushstrokes show Klimt at the height of his late period.

One of Klimt's Last Paintings

When the painter died of a stroke on February 6, 1918, he left the painting—with small parts unfinished —in his studio. After Klimt's death, the painting was given to the family who had commissioned it.

The Fate of the Painting After 1925

The only known photograph of the painting is held in the archives of the Austrian National Library. It was likely taken in 1925 in connection with the Klimt exhibition by Otto Kallir-Nirenstein in the Neue Galerie, Vienna. The inventory card for the negative contains the note: "1925 in possession of Mrs. Lieser, IV, Argentinierstrasse 20." The exact fate of the painting after 1925 is unclear. What is known is that it was acquired by a legal predecessor of the consignor in the 1960s and went to the current owner through three successive inheritances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gustav Klimt
(Vienna 1862 - 1918 Vienna)'
Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, 1917
Oil on canvas; framed,
140 x 80 cm

Provenance:

Estate of the artist;
Adolf Lieser or Henriette Lieser, Vienna;
Art dealer, Vienna;
Austrian private property since the 1960s

Exhibitions:

Vienna 1926, Neue Galerie, Otto Nirenstein, 23rd exhibition, Gustav Klimt, May 20 - end of June. The black-and-white photograph, negative 113.741, from the archive of the Austrian National Library (with the note: "Gustav Klimt. / Female Portrait (Frl. Lieser).  / Painting. / ANM.: 1925 in possession of Mrs. Lieser, IV, / Argentinierstrasse 20.") is probably related to this Klimt exhibition, which was originally scheduled to open on October 10, 1925 in the rooms of the Hagenbund.

Literature:

Fritz Novotny/Johannes Dobai, Gustav Klimt. Katalog der Gemälde, Salzburg 1967, 1st ed., no. 205, p. 367, plate 103, b/w illus;

Alice Strobl, Gustav Klimt. Die Zeichnungen 1912-1918, vol. III, Salzburg 1984, p. 111f., b/w illus. p. 114 and studies no. 2584-2605, p. 120-124;

Alfred Weidinger (ed.), Gustav Klimt. Kommentiertes Gesamtverzeichnis des malerischen Werkes by Alfred Weidinger, Michaela Seiser, Eva Winkler, Munich et al. 2007, no. 245, b/w illus. p. 306;

Dr. Hansjörg Krug, Gustav Klimt's Last Notebook, in: Renée Price (ed.), The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, catalog Neue Galerie New York, Munich et al. 2007, p. 220f;

Tobias G. Natter (ed.), Gustav Klimt. Sämtliche Gemälde, Cologne 2012, no. 235, b/w illus. p. 637;

Georg Gaugusch, Who once was. Das jüdische Großbürgertum Wiens 1800-1938, L-R, Vienna 2016, pp. 1899-1902;

Gustav Klimt-Database, Klimt-Foundation, Vienna: https://www.klimt-database.com/de/klimt-werk/1914-1918/maler-der-frauen/ (retrieved on 07.12.2023; Unfinished commissions and lost portraits, without illustration)

 

A certificate from The Art Loss Register, London, was issued on April 13, 2023 (ALS Ref: S00230833).

The Federal Monuments Office (decision dated October 23, 2023) has issued a permit to export the painting.

The work of art will be auctioned on behalf of the current owners (Austrian private citizens) and the legal successors of Adolf and Henriette Lieser, based on an agreement in accordance with the Washington Principles.