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1klimt DSC 0832 800Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918), Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907)

Adele Bloch-Bauer was an avid art patron at the centre of Vienna’s cultural life. And when she sat for a portrait by Gustav Klimt, she was transformed into an icon, writes Kimberly Bradley. 

Pleading… or challenging? In her portraits, it’s difficult to read what might have been going on behind the limpid, dark eyes of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the only women that fin de siècle Austrian artist Gustav Klimt portrayed not once, but twice. But this is clearly a woman of depth and mystery. In a new exhibition  at New York’s Neue Galerie, both portraits – the iconic, long-controversial Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and the lesser-known but no less stunning Adele Bloch-Bauer II(1912) – will be shown together for the first time in more than a decade. 

The exhibition includes portraits of other women, but Adele remains the most iconic. It is she, as a ‘woman in gold’, who anchors the works that represent the apex of Klimt’s ‘golden phase’. (Speculation is, too, that she is the half-nude figure in Klimt’s Judith and the Head of Holofernes, and possibly the closed-eyed, blissed-out woman in The Kiss.) It is she who embodies both the vulnerability and strength of women in turn-of-the-century Vienna, a society in profound transition....

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