April 22, 2009

Ria Munk by Gustav Klimt


I read today that the mayor of the Austrian town of Linz announced that the town will return the Klimt painting entitled, Portrait of a Woman (Ria Munk) to the descendants of a Jewish family who were robbed of it by the Nazis.

Linz Mayor Franz Dobusch said yesterday that the art historian contracted by the town confirmed that the painting had been seized by the Nazis in 1941 when Aranka Munk, Ria Munk’s mother, was deported to the Litzmannstadt concentration camp in Lodz, Poland where she died in 1941.


Art historian, Sophie Lillie, identified the work as a portrait of Ria Munk which the Munk family commissioned from Gustav Klimt in 1911 along with two others.

The daughter of an Austrian Jewish industrialist, Ria committed suicide in December of 1911 because of an unhappy love affair. Klimt painted a portrait of Ria on her deathbed and was then asked for others showing her alive. Klimt created two posthumous portraits of Ria in the following years. Klimt himself died before he completed the second portrait shown above.

The painting is worth 15 million Euro ($24 million Cdn) and the legal heir, remaining anonymous, issued a statement welcoming the decision and thanking local authorities, stating that the return of the painting was "profoundly joyful."

I’ll bet.

11 comments:

Beth Ahrens-Kley said...

What was wrong is corrected, but, they took their time didn't they.
Beautiful portrait. It would have been much nicer to read that Ria is now a happy old (gt)grandma able to enjoy the new turn of events!

Anna said...

I'm so glad that the painting can be returned. I remember learning about that phenomenon. I wonder how many hundreds and hundreds of displaced treasures still remain in the wrong hands after all of these years. So nice that the family can reclaim this part of their legacy.

California Girl said...

Isn't this a gorgeous image and what a story to go with! I've seen this before so it must have been on display in Linz? Well, best it go where it rightfully belongs.

Poetikat said...

I love Klimt and this one is a beauty! How wonderful that they are to have it back after all this time.

Kat

Rinkly Rimes said...

One of y favourite artists. And I was going to remark on the cleverness of the artist in making the background more vivid than the sitter when I read your piece. Ah well, I still like the effect.

sallymandy said...

Such good news about the return of this piece of art. Once again I'm in love with a work by Klimt. Those colors take my breath away.

Coccinella said...

I'm so glad to hear of the return of the painting to its rightful owners but a very sad story too.

I've loved Klimt for many years; teenage years actually - decades! LBx

Margaret Gosden said...

A lovely Klimt. I wonder if we will ever get to see it in New York....I wish

DineometerDeb said...

Is this the same painter who did The Kiss? It looks very similar to that.

lotusgreen said...

i am so moved by so many emotions reading about all of these stories (including the moma's unwillingness to return two that they have!).

like the long, healing arm of the future moving back to salve wounds.

ramidonya said...

There are many stories like this, although this one feels particularly bitter sweet. There is another famous Klimt painting that had a protracted legal battle fought over it recently, between the Austrian National Gallery and the descendants of the Jewish owner. It was ultimately returned to the rightful heirs. It was shown for a while at the Neue Gallerie in New York City (a fabulous treasure trove of Viennese Secession artists, of whom Klimt was a forerunner and teacher). They had to extend their gallery hours to accommodate the crush of visitors who wanted to see it. Subsequent to the resolution of the court case, the heir sold it for an astonishing and record breaking amount of money, which somehow felt wrong to me. But if I had to choose between a personally, politically, and historically meaningful painting and 10 million dollars, I would probably take the money too. I have a beautiful painted portrait of my grandmother that I imagine I would NEVER part with. But it's not worth anything to anyone except my family, so that's easy for me to say. I wonder what the anonymous owner will do with Ria's portrait?