Appearance of New Documents on the Viennese Klimt Paintings

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (05/09/03)

Vienna (APA) – The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“ (FAZ) reports today of new documentary records in connection with the Klimt paintings formerly owned by the Bloch-Bauer family in which currently a lawsuit is pending between the Republic of Austria and the Bloch-Bauer heiress, Maria Altmann. The papers “prove that the paintings were indeed in the possession of Adele Bloch-Bauer which she later bequeathed in her testament to the museum” and “sheds a completely new light on the dispute.” Authors of the report are Stephan Koja, the curator of the 19th century collection in the Austrian State Gallery, Belvedere, and the historian, Andreas Kugler, Executive Assistant at the Austrian Theatermuseum..

The Austrian State Gallery acknowledged to APA the appearance of the new documents “in the course of conducting other research.” The FAZ quotes, among other things, proof of delivery received by the Director of the Gallery, Franz Haberditzl, on April 12, 1919: “two portraits and four landscapes by Gustav Klimt owned by Mrs. Bloch-Bauer (…) with the authorization to exhibit these art works as items on loan.” In another letter from 1919, Adele Bloch-Bauer is revealed “as initiative owner of her paintings.” After the death of Adele Bloch-Bauer in January, 1925, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer promised to faithfully fulfill the conditions of the will (in which she, among other items, asked her husband to bequeath the paintings to the Republic of Austria or Austrian State Gallery after his death).

So it states in the FAZ article: “In October 1945, when Ferdinand during exile in Zürich wrote his will making provisions for his nieces and nephews, he was demonstrably aware of the whereabouts of Adele’s Klimt paintings and that they were to be conveyed to the Austrian Gallery according to Mrs. Bloch-Bauer’s will. If it had not been his wish, Ferdinand, mentally competent at the time, would have surely protested to the very last.”

In the recent book, “Oskar Kokoschka. Kunst und Politik 1937-1950” by Gloria Sultano and Patrick Werkner, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer is quoted as writing in a letter: “Everything was taken from me in Vienna and Böhmen. I wasn’t left a single keepsake! Perhaps I will get the two portraits of my poor wife (referring to the Klimt paintings) as well as my portrait,” he wrote to Oskar Kokoschka in 1941.

Gloria Sultano, Patrick Werkner: “Oskar Kokoschka. Kunst und Politik 1937-1950”. 360 Seiten, 35 Euro, ISBN 3-205-77030-7