Lot 26
  • 26

Gustav Klimt

12,000,000 - 18,000,000 GBP
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  • Gustav Klimt
  • Bildnis Gertrud Loew (Gertha Felsőványi) (Portrait of Gertrud Loew - Gertha Felsőványi)
  • signed Gustav Klimt and dated 1902 (upper left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 149.5 by 45cm.
  • 58 7/8 by 17 3/4 in.


Dr Anton Loew, Vienna (commissioned from the artist in 1902)

Gertha Baruch von Felsőványi (née Loew), Vienna (by descent from the above)

Gustav Ucicky, Vienna (acquired circa 1941)

Ursula Ucicky, Vienna (by inheritance from the above in 1961)

Klimt Foundation, Vienna (a gift of the above in 2013)

Klimt Foundation & The Heirs of Gertha Felsőványi (ownership settlement agreed between the two parties in 2014)


Vienna, Wiener Secessionsgebäude, 18. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession – Kollektiv Ausstellung Gustav Klimt, 1903-04, no. 38 (titled Bildnis eines jungen Mädchens)

Dresden, Städtischer Ausstellungspalast, Grosse Kunstausstellung, 1904, no. 250, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Bildnis eines jungen Mädchens)

Berlin, Zweite Ausstellung des Deutschen Künstlerbundes, 1905, either no. 105, 106, 107 or 108

Vienna, Volksheim, Porträtausstellung, 1912, no. 98 (titled Frau G. Baruch-Loew)

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Ein Jahrhundert Wiener Malerei, 1918, probably no. 56 (titled Bildnis Frau F.)

Vienna, Wiener Secessionsgebäude, Klimt-Gedächtnisausstellung, 99. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession, 1928, no. 15

Venice, Giardini di Castello, XXIX Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, 1958, no. 4

Vienna, Wiener Secessionsgebäude; Künstlerhaus & Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, Wien um 1900, 1964, no. 38, illustrated in the catalogue

Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Klimt und die Frauen, 2000-01, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Vienna, Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst, Wege der Moderne: Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos und die Folgen, 2014-15, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


R. G., ‘Die Künstlerkolonie Villa Romana in Florenz’, in Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, vol. 16, 1905, illustrated in colour p. 309

Ludwig Hevesi, Acht Jahre Secession (März 1897-Juni 1905). Kritik - Polemik - Chronik, Vienna, 1906, mentioned pp. 443f & 451f

‘Art at Home and Abroad’, in New York Times, 4th August 1912, illustrated

Hugo Haberfeld, ‘Gustav Klimt’, in Die Kunst. Monatshefte für freie und angewandte Kunst, vol. 4, 1912, illustrated p. 176

Galerie Miethke, Vienna (ed.), Das Werk Gustav Klimts, 1908-14, illustrated in colour

Max Eisler, Gustav Klimt, Vienna, 1920, mentioned p. 24

Emil Pirchan, Gustav Klimt, Vienna, 1942, no. 59, illustrated

Fritz Novotny & Johannes Dobai, Gustav Klimt, Salzburg, 1967, no. 125, illustrated p. 325; illustrated in colour pl. 26, detail illustrated in colour pl. 27

Christian M. Nebehay (ed.), Gustav Klimt, Dokumentation, Vienna, 1969, no. 440, illustrated p. 318 and detail illustrated pl. II

Hanspeter von Zürcher, Stilles Wasser. Narziss und Ophelia in der Dichtung und Malerei um 1900, Bonn, 1975, mentioned p. 75

Johannes Dobai & Sergio Coradeschi, L'opera complete di Klimt, Milan, 1978, no. 112, illustrated p. 100

Gerbert Frodl, Klimt, London, 1992, illustrated in colour p. 94

Moritz Czáky (ed.), Hermann Bahr: Tagebücher, Stizzenbücher, Notizhefte, Vienna, 1994, vol. III, mentioned p. 255

Gilles Néret, Gustav Klimt, Cologne, 1999, mentioned p. 30

Klimt und die Frauen (exhibition catalogue), Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 2000-01, illustrated in colour p. 99

Sophie Lillie, Was einmal war. Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens, Vienna, 2003, illustrated p. 356

Gustav Klimt: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections (exhibition catalogue), 2007-08, Neue Galerie, New York, illustrated in a facsimile of the ‘Art at Home and Abroad’ article from 1912, p. 18

Madness and Modernity. Mental illness and the visual arts in Vienna 1900 (exhibition catalogue), 2010, The Wellcome Collection, London, discussed pp. 121-135

Alfred Weidinger (ed.), Gustav Klimt, Munich, Berlin, London & New York, 2007, no. 159, illustrated in colour p. 275, detail illustrated in colour p. 183 (with incorrect measurements)

Koloman Moser (exhibition catalogue), Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2007, no. 14, illustrated in colour p. 174

Jane Kallir & Alfred Weidinger (eds.), Gustav Klimt. In Search of the 'Total Artwork', Munich, Berlin, London & New York, 2009, no. 6, illustrated in colour p. 34

Tobias G. Natter (ed.), Gustav Klimt. The Complete Paintings, Cologne, 2012, no. 145, illustrated in colour pp. 224 & 583

Sandra Tretter & Peter Weinhäupl (eds.), 'Chiffre: Sehnsucht–25'. Gustav Klimts Korrespondenz an Maria Ucicka 1899–1916, Vienna, 2014, illustrated in colour p. 39


The canvas is lined. There is some retouching to the framing edges, corresponding to the original turnover edge, and a few very minor spots of retouching in the background and the sitter's dress, visible under ultra-violet light. Apart from some very fine lines of stable craquelure, this work is in very good condition.Colours: In comparison to the printed catalogue illustration, the colours are overall richer and more vibrant in the original. The blue and purple tones are more pronounced in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Gustav Klimt’s exquisite and ingenious representations of women have led to him become the most celebrated painter of the female portrait of the early 20th Century. Bildnis Gertrud Loew, painted in 1902, is an extraordinarily beautiful and captivating work from a crucial period in the artist’s career. Wreathed in diaphanous folds of gossamer fine white and lilac cloths, the sitter’s delicate features are composed into an expression of dreamy repose and gentleness, animated only by points of reflected light in her eyes. Klimt’s vertically inclined composition helps to enhance the figure’s somnambulant detachment by removing all extraneous details.

Discussing the narrow format and other compositional elements of the present work, Alfred Weidinger comments: ‘In a way similar to the portrait of Serena Lederer [fig. 1], Klimt here uses a strikingly narrow vertical format for his likeness of the nineteen-year-old girl – except that here the format is even narrower. Along the right-hand side, a portion of her shawl is cut off by the edge of the picture. This elongates the figure and reduces her distance from the viewer. The narrow format seems to have been inspired by Japanese art. Even the colour accents set by Klimt by means of his signet and the ornament in the area of the upper left of the picture are reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints’ (A. Weidinger, op. cit., p. 275). A passion for Japanese and Chinese art had gripped European intellectuals since the latter half of the 19th century. Numerous illustrated journals, exhibitions, recently opened museums and burgeoning private collections fuelled its integration with the avant-garde artistic practises of the day. Klimt’s own devotion to Orientalism is evident in a number of works from 1900 onwards, culminating in the boldly experimental inclusion of Asian motifs in his later portraits of Friederike Maria Beer and Elisabeth Lederer.

The symbolist treatment of the female portrait was to be one of Klimt’s definitive developments at the start of the 20th Century. The virginal purity of the tonalities and ethereal atmosphere evoked in Bildnis Gertrud Loew serve to elevate the work from its primary biographical purpose and engage with allegorical themes of youth and feminine purity. Quoting from another source, Doris H. Lehmann argues: ‘Each of Klimt’s female portraits is more than just a representation of his model. As Thomas Zaunschirm has written: Fundamentally, Klimt was less a portraitist than a painter who used female portraits for the purpose of his own allegories”’ (D. H. Lehmann in Facing the Modern. The Portrait in Vienna 1900 (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery, London, 2013, p. 99). This effect was achieved in part by the impressionistic brushwork which only loosely defined a sense of space in the picture, and was also due to the lack of topographical reference – a conceit that was a particular feature of Klimt’s portraits until the introduction of geometrical forms in the portrait of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s sister Bildnis Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein of 1905, now in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich (fig. 2).

Toward the turn of the century Klimt began to employ a near monochromatic palette in his portraiture. This development drew his work in line with the chromatic experimentations James Abbot McNeill Whistler undertook in London. The similarities between the two artists’ work was well noted at the time and has subsequently been seen as an important element of Klimt’s development as a painter. Discussing Whistler and Klimt, Manu von Miller writes: ‘Both were interested in deploying an increasingly abstract form of portrayal in order to convey the underlying meaning and elevate if to a plane of detachment and timelessness. Whistler did so by using colour as a means of expression, creating a lyrical atmosphere through the graduation of colours and the soft fluidity of contours. Klimt breaks the surface up into a densely woven tapestry of ornament, conjuring sublime surface effects by playing with the contrast between abstract ornamental forms and the highly erotic sensuality of the figures. Both these artists use a visual syntax that evokes a vague dreamlike fantasy world full of profound and exalted passions beyond the bounds of modern reality’ (M. von Miller in A. Weidinger (ed.), op. cit., pp. 69-70). In portraits such as Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (fig. 6), Whistler’s use of limited palettes accord with Klimt’s own use a few decades later. These simplified tonal ranges enabled Klimt and Whistler to enhance the stylisation whilst retaining the elegant allure of the formal portrait style. Furthermore, these daring painters assumed a technique which had long been considered the academic painters' finest attribute - the virtuosic application of ‘white-on-white’ paint.

When this portrait was exhibited at the Kollektiv Ausstellung Gustav Klimt at the 1903-04 Secession exhibition, the critic Ludwig Hevesi commented on a group of the artist’s most recent works as ‘three or four female portraits in all the magical charm of radiant filminess’ of Klimt’s distinctive brushwork, and admired the present work specifically for the ‘gauziest lyricism of which the painter’s palette is capable’ (L. Hevesi quoted in T. G. Natter, op. cit., p. 583). A week or so later Havesi further stated that the Bildnis Gertrud Loew possessed certain stylistic distinctions particular to Klimt’s latest paintings: ‘Take […], at the other end of the scale, the very young lady in white from this year, a pure whisper, with four stripes of pale lilac silk running the length of her gauzy, crumpled dress. Within the shimmering cascade of the fabric, each stripe meanders this way and that, in a random fashion that conceals the most exquisite painterly plan’ (L. Hevesi in ibid., p. 583).

The fashion-conscious artist - whose ‘soul-mate’ was the designer Emilie Flöge (fig. 7) - often incorporated extravagant patterns and geometric designs into his work. However, those who sat for his portraits and may have been actually dressed in the current fashions were often reimagined entirely to the artist’s own taste and for allegorical reasons, as Angela Völker explains: ‘Gustav Klimt clearly had a preference for pale-coloured dresses. A number of the women he painted are wearing white or pastel shades. This does not necessarily comply with current fashion trends. The softly fluid fabrics, often transparent, of the classical style robes in his early allegories are echoed in the thoroughly different pink and white dresses in his portraits of Sonja Knips, Serena Lederer [fig. 1] and Gertrud Loews [sic]. Knips’ highly fashionable frilled dress underlines the wearer’s girlishness, while Serena Lederer’s empire-style Reformkleid designed for a body unrestricted by whalebone-corsets, emphasises the clearly sensual aspect of the wearer. Gertha Felsöványi wears a close-fitting white dress with broad sleeve flounces and a transparent shawl with a pale blue border. Together with the unusual vertical format of the portrait, the dress underlines the petite stature and fragile complexion of this red-haired woman’ (A. Völker in Klimt und die Frauen (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 45).

Klimt’s portraiture was almost exclusively the product of commissions from private individuals, and helped to establish him in Vienna as the most successful artist of his day. Klimt’s art was the subject of heavy promotion through the various national and international exhibitions in which he took part, and through his correspondence with Whistler he became a member of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Engravers. The present work was exhibited on numerous occasions during the artist’s lifetime, both in Austria and Germany. Klimt’s foundation of the Secession and its association with private supporters allowed him to cultivate prospective commissions as well as exhibitions on a large scale, in a manner rarely afforded to artists before him. The growth of private patronage from the haute-bourgeoisie was needed to replace the large-scale commissions from the State and city of Vienna which previously supported many of Austria’s artists. Gemma Blackshaw explains: ‘Vienna’s art market shifted dramatically during Klimt’s career, from the public commissions of the city’s liberal heyday to the rise of private patronage, and from the academy system to the commercial gallery and dealer system. The privatisation of the art-market was a Europe-wide phenomenon, but the small size of Vienna in comparison with other capitals such as London, Paris and Berlin heightened the artists' experiences of these shifts’ (G. Blackshaw in Facing the Modern. The Portrait in Vienna 1900 (exhibition catalogue), The National Gallery, London, 2013, p. 114).

Klimt’s portraits were much in demand and he rapidly became the highest paid artist in Vienna. His popularity and status led to a number of prominent exhibitions – not least the Kollektiv Ausstellung Gustav Klimt at the 1903-04 Secession – but also to a market for reproductions of his best works. In 1908 the art dealer H. O. Miethke, of the eponymous gallery, initiated the creation of a series of 50 lithographs of Klimt’s finest work, simply entitled Das Werk Gustav Klimts. The present work was chosen alongside several of the great Golden period works, as well as a selection of landscapes, portraits and allegorical works. Published from 1908 to 1914 in an edition of only 300 - this was the only series of lithographs produced during the artist’s lifetime. Using collotype lithography and embossed by a signet designed specially by Klimt himself, this collection of prints helped the artist to gain an international reputation outside of the Teutonic European countries, and the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was the first person to purchase a folio set of Das Werk Gustav Klimts in 1908.

The sitter in the present work was born Gertrud Franziska Sophie on 16th November 1883, and was the daughter of Sophie Unger and Dr Anton Loew. Her grandfather Heinrich Loew founded the Loew Sanatorium (fig. 5) in the Leopoldstadt area in Vienna in 1859 (it was moved to the Mariannengasse in 1882, and was known as the Wiener Sanatorium Dr Anton Loew from 1907 onwards). During her father’s tenure as director and chief doctor it became one of the most highly-regarded medical institutions in Europe. The portrait was commission by Anton Loew the year before Gertrud's short-lived marriage to Dr Johann Arthur Eisler von Terramare (called Hans). Gertrud (known as Gertha) married the Hungarian industrialist Elemér Baruch von Felsőványi in April 1912 and bore him three children. In November 1923 her husband caught a chill returning from a nightclub and died a few days later.

The Loew Sanatorium was particularly notable for its treatment of a number of important fin-de-siècle figures, including Gustav Mahler and Gustav Klimt, as well as Ludwig Wittgenstein. In their study of Wittgenstein’s time in Vienna, Allan Janik and Hans Veigl give an account of the philosopher’s time at the Sanatorium and its milieu: ‘The Loew Sanatorium was a place where the well-to-do frequently went to spend their waning days. Private hospitals were part of the elegant lifestyle of the patrician class at the time. They too were a part of a life of fashionable luxury’ (A. Janik & H. Veigl, Wittgenstein in Vienna: A Biographical Excursion through the City and its History, Vienna & New York, 1998, p. 153). This thriving hospital enabled the Loew family to join society’s elite and give commissions to some of the most important artists of the day. Aside from his daughter’s portrait, Anton Loew also acquired Ferdinand Hodler’s Der Auserwählte (Kunstmuseum, Bern; fig. 8) and Klimt’s Judith I (Belvedere, Vienna; fig. 9). Gertha and her first husband Hans Eisler von Terramare – both serious enthusiasts of the Jugendstil aesthetic - engaged the artist Koloman Moser to design their apartment in the Wiener Werkstätte style (fig. 10). Gertha took over her family’s sanatorium after her father’s death in 1907, continuing to run it until the Anschluss in 1938. 

We are grateful to Sonja Niederacher and Ruth Pleyer for their research concerning this lot.

This work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition Gustav Klimt and the Women of Vienna's Golden Age, 1900-1918, to be held at the Neue Galerie in New York from September 2016 to January 2017.