The Gustav Klimt painting of Gertrud Loew is at the centre of an ongoing ownership dispute that may be resolved in the artwork’s sale, reports Reuters. There have been several high-profile restitution disputes in recent years. The Nazi party’s systematic looting of art has become not only more contentious than ever, but also bigger business. Gertrud Loew, was the owner of her own portrait from 1902 to 1938, until her fear of the Nazi-regime caused her to return to her native Austria.
Now Loew’s granddaughter, Andrea Felsovanyi, has been fighting for ownership of the painting, which is now in the hands of the Klimt Foundation in Vienna. An expert panel has apparently studied the case and found in favour of Loew’s daughter. Although Austrian law does not legally require the painting to be restored to its origins; the foundation’s bylaws call for the restitution of any art proven to be looted.
The artist was commissioned to create the work by Loew’s father, who was a Jewish doctor and friend of Klimt. Gertrud Loew is depicted in typical Klimt fashion in soft lines and palette. By 1942 the painting was in the hands of Gustav Ucicky, who was Klimt’s illegitimate child – and a film director for the Nazis. Yet the history of the painting is shrouded in mystery after Loew emigrated to America. It has been suggested that a friend of the family who was looking after it for Loew may have given it to her boyfriend in the Gestapo.
Sotheby’s and Christie’s have allegedly appraised the disputed artwork at $18–25 million, although according to Andrea Felsovanyi’s solicitor, Ernst Ploil, the painting is worth significantly more at around $30 million. The Klimt Foundation is currently in discussion with Ploil and has expressed its desire for a “just and fair” solution.
Yet Felsovanyi’s solicitor is planning to sell the work to a museum or a private owner, with Felsovanyi and the Klimt Foundation splitting the proceeds. One would hope evenly.