Paintings, like people, have lives affected by events. Notable for its gilded surface, Gustav Klimt’s 1907 portrait Adele Bloch-Bauer I has as its subject a member of a wealthy Viennese Jewish family. Commissioned by Bloch-Bauer’s husband, the painting hung alongside other artworks in their palatial home until the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, when it was looted and sold to a Viennese museum. There it remained until after the war, when Adele’s niece Maria Altmann successfully sued for its repatriation; it’s now the centerpiece of the Neue Galerie’s collection. As dramatized by a Neue Galerie exhibition and the new Helen Mirren vehicle, Woman in Gold, the story is a perfect illustration of the roundabout journey artworks sometimes take.
“Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold” is at Neue Galerie New York through Sept 7.