Showing posts with label Anne-Marie O'Connor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anne-Marie O'Connor. Show all posts

November 30, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: "Europe's dirty little art secret", 252 Works of Art Disclosed and HARP adds perspective

Gurlitt Collection: Daumier's
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Anne-Marie O'Connor, author of Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimit's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (reviewed here), writes an Op-Ed piece about "Europe's dirty little art secret" (Nov. 28) in the Los Angeles Times:
The outrage sparked by the clumsy handling of a Nazi-looted art trove in Munich, which was revealed this month, shows the urgent need for transparency in the art world, from museums to auction houses to private collections. For years this rarefied world has functioned like a private club. Many institutions, especially in Europe, have kept their World War II-era provenance files discreetly locked away, or have even quietly accepted questionable art from moneyed donors. Dealers too have looked the other way — until a painting stolen during the Holocaust is suddenly, fortuitously spotted, and an auction block turns into a crime scene. The Munich artworks — many of which were apparently either confiscated from Jewish families, bought for a fraction of their value or pulled off museum walls as "degenerate art" — are only the latest glaring example of the need for openness.
[...] 
The truth is this: Any work coming up for auction, offered in donation or held in state or private collections that has gaps or shifts in its ownership between 1933 and 1948 might have been stolen or obtained under duress. The records relating to such works must be made easily available, and the job of sorting through the documentation should be left to professionals who specialize in tracing Nazi art theft — and to the claimants themselves.
The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 issues a weekly newsletter lootedart.com. This week the headlines include "252 Works of Art from the Gurlitt Collection Disclosed to Date":

Table of Gurlitt Works of Art Posted on www.lootedart.com
252 works of art have been posted on the German site lostart.de to date. They are posted in no particular order, are not searchable except by searching the entire lostart database, and the information in English is only an abbreviated version of that provided in German. In order to assist researchers and families searching for their missing artworks, the Central Registry, www.lootedart.com, has created a fully searchable table of all the artworks. This will be continually updated as new works are posted. The works are listed in alphabetical order by artist and the table includes all available provenance information.
For further information, click here.
Gurlitt Collection: Max Liebermann's Riders on the Beach
The Central Registry's list of the Gurlitt Works consists of many drawings, watercolors, prints, and lithographs by artists such as François Boucher, Canaletto, Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Corot, Daumier, Degas, Delacroix, André Derain, Otto Dix, Dürer, Ingres, Max Liebermann, Manet, Millet, Munch, Picasso, Pissarro, Rodin, Rousseau, Seurat, Tiepolo, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Three oil paintings are listed: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by Honoré Daumier;  Riders on the beach by Max Liebermann (Provenance: Collection David Friedmann, Breslau); and Seated Woman in an Armchair by Henri Matisse (Provenance: Collection Paul Rosenberg, Paris; 1944 purchased from Gustav Rochlitz).

In the German DW.DE, journalist Jefferson Chase interviews HARP for a perspective in "Gurlitt case takes Allies, global art market to task": Parts of the Gurlitt collection are likely of dubious provenance. But why were they restored at all to an art dealer who had worked for the Nazis? DW asked two founders of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project:
One side to the story that has largely escaped scrutiny, however, is the role of Allied occupation authorities after World War II. After all, they were nominally responsible for ensuring that art looted by the Nazis was returned to its proper owners in the first place. Rightly or wrongly, the state prosecutor in the city of Augsburg has come under criticism for the length of time between the seizure, which was only made public by a German news magazine at the start of this month, and initial attempts to restore the artworks to their legitimate owners. But questions should also be asked as to how Germany's post-war occupiers could have allowed Hildebrand Gurlitt - one of the leading art dealers in the Third Reich - to amass a collection including works by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, and Dix and then pass that trove on to his son Cornelius.
US soldiers had the tough task of finding the proper owners of looted art. 
Gurlitt Collection: Henri Matisse
Seated Woman in an Armchair
"I'm astonished at how quickly the Allied forces in charge of collection points for plundered art were to return it to whoever claimed it," Ori Soltes, an art professor at Georgetown University and a co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), told DW. "There was even a case of art being given to a man claiming to represent Yugoslavia who was in fact just a private collector." 
According to historian Marc J. Masurovsky, another co-founder of HARP, Hildebrand Gurlitt was an established art dealer and a former museum director "who was given significant responsibilities during the 12-year reign of the National Socialists both to recycle thousands of so-called 'degenerate' works purged by decree from German public collections and to acquire untold numbers of works and objects of art at auctions inside the Reich and from galleries, dealers, collectors and artists living and working in German-occupied territories."

October 22, 2012

"Lady in Gold" author Anne-Marie O'Connor spoke of "an age of restitution" in Nazi-looted art disputes at Rutgers University


by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Correspondent

In the eventful weekend of the annual CHAPS Conference at Rutgers University, I could not help but be interested in the multitude of flyers posted in Voorhees Hall announcing upcoming talks and events.  Of particular interest was an announcement for a talk given by Anne-Marie O’Connor on her book The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.”  So after enjoying a weekend long conference, I made my way back to New Brunswick to hear O’Connor speak about her recounting of the history of Klimt’s painting.

Standing in a small classroom, Anne-Marie O’Connor gave a brief account of the history of The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the restitution case concluded only a few years ago.  In an almost disarmingly candid manner, O’Connor told the tale that was “not just a restitution of art but a restitution of history,” sparking discussions of the issues surrounding restitution during the following question period.  The case of this particular painting opened the door on restitution of Nazi-era looted art, ushering in, as O’Connor dubbed it, “an age of restitution.”  An appropriate name since the Hague will be hosting an international symposium on “Fair and Just Solutions? Alternatives to litigation in Nazi looted art disputes, status quo and new developments” on November 27, 2012.  As more restitution cases come to light, more undiscovered histories, like those recounted in The Lady in Gold, are laid out for the world to discover.

If you have not read O’Connor’s book, please see Catherine Schofield Sezgin’s review of the book (in three parts) and hunt down a copy of the book to enjoy the complex and extraordinary tale of this painting.

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Anne-Marie O'Connor's "The Lady in Gold: Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Anne-Marie O'Connor's The Lady in Gold: Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings (Knopf, 2012):
In 1907, Gustav Klimt finished the portrait of 24-year-old Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a wealthy art patron who lived across the square from Vienna's Fine Art Academy.  In the same year, that same art school would reject Adolf Hitler's application for admission because he failed the drawing exam.  More than three decades later, these two events collided when a Nazi stole this portrait from the home of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jew who had fled Europe's great cultural center when Austria united with Hitler's fascist regime.
In Lady in Gold, the Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings, journalist Anne-Marie O'Connor tells the story of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which would sell for $135 million to an American in 2007.  O'Connor first describes the relationship between Klimt, his Jewish art patrons, and the cultural environment in pre-Nazi Austria.  From the point of view of the Bloch-Bauer family we are told of the collaboration between Austria and the German Nazis to loot Jewish art collections.  The book concludes with the legal struggles of American attorney Randy Schoenberg to navigate the U. S. legal system and help Maria Altmann and the other surviving members of the Bloch-Bauer family to recovery four stolen Klimt paintings.  It's a story of how a legitimate government corrupted legislation to steal from, and murder, its own citizens.
Against the backdrop of the murder of 6 million Jews, restitution of stolen art may seem unimportant, especially as newspapers today sport headlines of Jewish families recovering and then selling artworks for millions of dollars.  Why is it so important that these paintings are returned to the families now? Weren't these issues of restitution settled decades ago when Allied forces discovered stolen art in the salt mines of Germany after the war? And why does the American legal system have to get involved in these cases, almost seven decades after armistice? Isn't this a metter for the government of Austria to decide? Lady in Gold answers these questions.
You may read this review by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.

June 19, 2012

Book Review (Part III): Anne-Marie O'Connor's "Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Baur

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief


In June, 1908, Klimt unveiled his gold portrait of the 26-year-old Adele, making her an ‘instant celebrity’ (O’Connor):

‘Klimt embedded Adele in a luminous field of real gold leaf, giving her the appearance of a religious icon, which art historians would compare to the mosaic portrait of Empress Theodora in Ravenna.’

Three years later, a syphilis-ridden Klimt visits the Bloch-Bauer castle in Czechloslovakia to work on a second portrait of Adele that he shows in 1912:

 ‘It was a very different work.  Her expression was mature, direct, and anything but seductive.  This was an older Adele, with world-weary eyes and cigarette-stained teeth, a painting some would call evidence of the end of the affair.’ (O’Connor)

Adele and her husband would also own four Klimt landscapes, including the 1912 “Apple Tree”.

In 1913, Hitler left Vienna.  The following year, an anarchist shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand outside of his residence at the Belvedere Palace, a random act that would lead to The Great War, and the death of millions of young men.

Klimt dies of Spanish influenza in 1918 at the age of fifty-five, a few months before Armistice Day which reduces the Habsburg’s empire from 60 million to a tenth of that population and squeezed into a debt-ridden new state.

Until Adele’s death of meningitis in her early 40s, she lives a prominent cultural life filled with intellectuals, Viennese composers and artists.  In 1923, Adele wrote in a short will: “I ask my husband after his death, to leave my two portraits and the four landscapes by Gustav Klimt to the Austrian Gallery in Vienna.” (O’Connor) In another strange parallel, it is the same year Hitler writes “Mein Kampf (My Struggle)”, ‘the bestseller he wrote from prison after his failed uprising in 1923’ (O’Connor).

Within 15 years, when Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer flees Austria to his summer home in Czechloslovakia prior to the unification of Germany and Austria, the Vienna Adele knew is unrecognizable.  Members of the extended family are arrested, jailed and tortured until valuable assets are signed over to the Nazi government.  Relatives pay a “flight tax” to escape to Canada ahead of deportation to concentration camps.  Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer is accused of financial crimes, his assets are ‘illegally taxed in Vienna and his entire estate was confiscated’ as he will write in his will in 1942.  Ferdinand dies in November of 1945 in Zurich.  He was unable to recovery any of his property.  His estate is left to three of his nieces and nephews, including 25% to Maria Altmann who will lead the family’s fight for the legal return of the stolen Klimt paintings.

After the war, as some say, many Nazis exchanged their uniforms for suits and went to work to rebuilding Austria.  New legislation discouraged Jews from returning to reclaim stolen property.  Export licenses for ‘masterpieces’ were withheld, Jewish owners had to pay to get what was left of their businesses.  O’Connor describes how Nazis in plainclothes entered Maria Altmann’s home, took her valuables, and imprisoned her husband at the infamous concentration camp, Dachau, until the family completed the paperwork required to Aryanize their property and businesses.

Maria, her husband Fritz, and other family members escape the Nazis and rebuild their lives, frustrated that the Bloch-Bauer Klimt paintings hang at Belvedere Palace with no mention of their Jewish patronage.  Then the District Attorney of New York City impounds a painting borrowed for an exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from an Austrian Art Institution (see review of the film “Portrait of Wally”).  Maria Altmann, now a widow in her 80s and living in Los Angeles, contacts “Randy” the lawyer son of a family friend.  Randal Schoenberg spends years beating the odds with legal arguments, working his way into arbitration with the Austrian government who eventually agrees to return to the paintings to the family.  O’Connor explains why Schoenberg was successful, how Maria Altmann helped the case, and why the family ended up selling the paintings.  It’s a story that will hopefully encourage more Jewish families to pursue their own claims for looted art.

June 18, 2012

Book Review (Part II): Anne-Marie O'Connor's "Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief


In 1898, 17-year-old Adele, the daughter of Viennese banker Moritz Bauer, meets her future husband Ferdinand Bloch when her older sister Therese marries Ferdinand’s younger brother.  A few months later, an anarchist murders the free-spirited Empress Elisabeth, much admired by most of the Hapsburgs’ Austro-Hungarian Empire for her love of horses and her reluctance to participate in royal court politics.  An era of stability is ending.  A middle-aged Gustav Klimt, who is about to alienate his government sponsors, opens a ‘palace dedicated to Art Nouveau on the Ringstrasse’ for a group dubbed the Secessionists who wrote above the entrance “to every age its art; to art its freedom”.

A year later, Adele marries Ferdinand, a man twice her age but not the ladies’ man Klimt is reputed to be, at the same time Sigmund Freud publishes “The Interpretation of Dreams”, ‘his anatomy of the unconscious impulses driving individuals and society’ (O’Connor).

The next year Klimt, a favored court painter, shows the first of three ceiling murals for the University of Vienna, failing to please the authorities in the next few years with his decade portrayals on the themes of Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.  ‘Jewish families were assimilating in Vienna through art and culture’, as characterized by writer Karl Kraus.  It was these Jewish patrons who financially support Klimt when the Ministry of Culture rejects Klimt for a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts.

Although Klimt is not commissioned to paint Adele’s portrait until 1903, his 1901 portrait of Judith ‘bears an almost photographic resemblance to Adele’ (O’Connor), leading to support that Klimt may have known Adele earlier and may have had an intimate relationship with her.  Klimt’s Judith is one of the masterpieces highlighted at Austria’s national art collection at the Belvedere Palace.  ‘A Klimt commission at the time cost 4,000 crowns, a quarter of the price of a well-appointed country villa’ (O’Connor):

‘Klimt portrayed women as individuals, without the presence of a husband, father, or children to suggest their domestic role…. They soon gained the reputation of having an affair with the master who was so infamous with his amours.”

A few months after agreeing to the Bloch-Bauer portrait, Klimt traveled to Ravenna to study the sixth-century mosaics ‘the greatest legacies of the Byzantine art outside Constantinople’ (O’Connor), which include portraits of the childless and powerful Empress Theodora, courtesan and wife of Justinian.  The mosaics include the use of gold tiles, the material Klimt grew up studying at the workshop of his father, an engraver who worked on the city’s monuments.  Upon Klimt’s return to his studio in Vienna, he began sketching another childless woman, the restless, ambitious and intelligent Adele Bloch-Bauer.  Klimt’s reputation for seducing many women and Adele’s unromantic marriage had led to rumors of a sexual relationship between artist and subject, according to O’Connor’s interviews half a century later with Adele’s niece, Maria Altmann:

“So when Adele went to Klimt’s studio that winter, she faced the possibility of failure as a woman.  No one ever believed Adele was in love with Ferdinand.  But she was expected to feel lucky, or at least content.  Instead, she struggled with sobering disappointment.’ ‘Klimt made endless sketches of Adele.’ ‘He would make more than a hundred studies of Adele.’

Klimt painted Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I from 1904 to 1907.  He also painted Danae and The Kiss (both now at the Belvedere) in 1907, the same year struggling artist Adolf Hitler moves to Vienna and lives in a ‘hostel financed with large donations from Baron Nathaniel Rothschild and the Gutmanns’ (O’Connor).  While only a Jewish owner of a frame and window store, Samuel Morgenstern, purchased Hitler’s drawings and watercolors, the artist became ‘fascinated’ by ‘the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Karl Lueger [Vienna’s elected mayor] … who was able to focus popular discontent on the liberal Jewish intelligentsia’ (O’Connor).

Part Three continues tomorrow.

June 17, 2012

Book Review (Part I): Anne-Marie O'Connor's "Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

By Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In 1907 prosperous Vienna, the great cultural center of Europe, two events happened which would not collide for another three decades.  Gustav Klimt would fulfill a commission to paint the portrait of 24-year-old Adele Bloch-Bauer, who lived across the square from Vienna’s Fine Art Academy, the art school which would in that same year reject Adolf Hitler’s for admission because he failed the drawing exam.

In Lady in Gold, the Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt paintings, journalist Anne-Marie O’Connor tells the extraordinary story of The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I which would sell for $135 million to an American in 2007.  O’Connor first describes the relationship between Klimt, his Jewish art patrons, and the cultural environment in pre-Nazi Austria. From the point of view of the Bloch-Bauer family is told of the collaboration between Austria and the German Nazis to loot Jewish art collections.  The book concludes with the legal struggles of American attorney Randy Schoenberg to navigate the U. S. legal system to help Maria Altmann and the other surviving members of the Bloch-Bauer family to recover four stolen Klimt paintings.  It’s a story of how a legitimate government corrupted legislation to steal from and murder its own citizens.

Within a decade, the Nazis succeeded in destroying the Jewish community Austrian-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef (ruled from 1848-1916) created in Vienna by providing citizenship rights to European Jews in the 19th century – offering them a sanctuary from discrimination and persecution that stretched to the hinterlands of Russia.  The Jewish population in Vienna rapidly increased from 6,000 to more than 200,000 in less than 40 years, creating dissention in the anti-Semitic mostly Roman Catholic population.  Vienna, against the wishes of Franz Joseph, elected an anti-Semitic mayor for two decades who served in effect as a political mentor for Hitler.  After the Second World War, less Jews lived in Austria than had a century ago and they had no intention of returning to a country that treated them less favorably than its population of horses.

Against the backdrop of the murder of 6 million Jews, restitution of stolen art may seem unimportant, especially as newspapers today sport headlines of Jewish families recovering then selling artworks for millions of dollars.  Why is it so important that these paintings are returned to the families now? Weren’t these issues of restitution settled decades ago when Allied forces discovered stolen art in the salt mines of Germany after the war? And why does the American legal system have to get involved in these cases almost seven decades after armistice? Isn’t this a matter for the government of Austria to decide? Lady in Gold answers these questions.

Vienna at the turn of the 20th century was hedonistic.  In 1889, the Crown Prince shot his teenage mistress then himself in 1889.  The Emperor’s mistress was a stage actress.  In 1897, American writer Mark Twain publicly lectured about the virulent anti-Semitism palpable in the Vienna, the city rebuilding itself after successfully defeating Ottoman invaders a half century earlier.  The old fortress walls came down and the Ringstrasse, a series of boulevards encircling the center of Vienna arose, providing an opportunity for Vienna’s nuveau riche, many of them Jewish, to celebrate their financial and industrial wealth with monumental mansions and beautiful decorative arts.  Even statues fronting public buildings glisten with gold.

Part Two continues tomorrow.

June 14, 2012

Destroyed in WWII: Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano" (1899)

Gustav Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano", 1899
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

Mizzi Zimmerman was the red-haired teenager in Gustav Klimt's 1899 painting, Schubert at the Piano.  In Anne-Marie O'Connor's 2012 book, Lady in Gold, the journalist mentions this work in describing the seduction powers of the artist.  In this painting of the Austrian composer, Mizzi is pregnant with Klimt's son.  The 'whispery silk gown' Mizzi models is lent by Serena Lederer, a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected 14 of Klimt's paintings, including a portrait by Klimt of Egon Schiele's mistress, Valerie Neuzil.

Mizzi also posed nude for another of the artist's works, Naked Truth, but Klimt had no intention of marrying the pregnant Catholic girl, O'Connor writes.  Klimt, who had also impregnated another woman at the same time, told Mizzi that he would be focusing his energies on a big commission to paint ceiling murals for the University of Vienna -- Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.   Mizzi told her mother of her pregnancy, O'Connor reports: her stepfather threw Mizzi out of the house and she begged the artist for financial support.

But we can't see Schubert at the Piano in any museum.  This and the other Klimt paintings collected by Lederer, were destroyed in 1945 when retreating Nazis set Schloss Immendorf on fire.  The paintings from the Lederer collection had been placed at the residence of Baron Rudolf Freudenthan, an officer in the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), for safekeeping in 1943.  O'Connor recounts that the Lederer Klimt collection of "as many as fourteen spectacular Klimt paintings" included Golden Apple Tree, Philosophy and Jurisprudence (which the Lederers had purchased when the University of Vienna rejected them), Girl Friends and Music II ("The precise number of paintings burned at Schloss Immendorf is unknown, O'Connor notes).