Portrait! It is not only a painting on a sheet of paper or a canvas, but a portrayal of emotions straight from the artist’s heart!
Many times artists manipulate you with the expressions their subjects portray, but in reality, they are just trying to convey a hidden message.
That’s how the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I rose to fame.
It efficiently portrayed the dark side of wealthy upper-class society.
The moment you take a look at this phenomenal work of art, your eyes will light up at the amount of gold, silver, and shimmer that has been used in this painting.
And trust me, the golden shimmer is real!
Gustav Klimt, a famous Austrian painter, was behind the creation of this artwork, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.”
Klimt commissioned this artwork for Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a businessman from Vienna and also Adele’s husband.
It took him 5 years and more than 100 rough sketches to finally depict the beauty and emotions of this woman’s gold painting!
And to your surprise, this is not only a regular oil painting on canvas, but it also includes real gold leaves that give the painting a royal look.
Table of contents
- The backstory of Adele Bloch-Bauer
- Deep Dive into the Creation
- Theories Surrounding the Portrait
- What Does “The Lady in Gold” Signifies?
- Analyzing the Portrait of “Adele Bloch-Bauer I”
- Symbolism Along with Theme
- Texture and Shades
- Perception of Adele
- Influence on the Art World
- Is the Golden Lady Still in Appeal?
- Author’s Note
The backstory of Adele Bloch-Bauer
A lady from one of the wealthiest families in Austria, who was the youngest child of her family.
Even when she got married to a business tycoon, she got everything she wanted, except happiness!
The lady was Adele Bloch-Bauer! And it is the story of the woman in gold painting.
Now, if you are wondering why a lady covered in shimmers with enormous wealth under her name could’ve been sad in her life?
Adele Bloch-Bauer I, is a portrait of a young and wealthy socialite who lived a traumatic life.
Adele Bloch-Bauer’s father was the director of the Wiener Bankverein, the seventh-largest bank in the Austria-Hungary cluster.
She married a man named Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer who was 17 years her senior.
They both met at Therese Bauer’s (Adele’s sister) and Gustav Bloch’s (Ferdinand’s brother) wedding.
They started dating back in 1898 and got married in 1899; that’s when Adele started making visits to the Salon and started bringing artists, writers, etc. together.
She became a hostess at the Salon, which was the center of the Vienna Society’s artists, and that’s where she met Gustav Klimt.
She wanted to attend university and study, but after their parents arranged her marriage to Ferdinand, she had no choice.
But as a matter of surprise, Ferdinand himself was an art enthusiast, and he loved collecting neoclassical art.
As soon as they got married, they changed their surnames to Bloch-Bauer which included both family names.
This was the life of Adele Bloch Bauer, who died at a very young age due to meningitis.
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Deep Dive into the Creation
First look at this work of art, and the viewers are awestruck! The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I has some psychedelic qualities, which keep the viewers hooked.
As a girl who married a man 17 years senior to her, Adele had anger and arrogance rooted in her behavior.
Gustav Klimt has portrayed the depressed women of upper-class society through the Woman in Gold painting.
Adele and Gustav Klimt met when Adele was gaining fame for her Salon.
According to Gustav Klimt, ‘every art is erotic’. But, that was not the case with the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
The painting is covered in gold and silver motifs, and the area that remains exposed is Adele’s body, which also marks the expressions on her face.
Klimt was also famously known for his erotic and controversial artworks like ‘The Kiss‘ and many more paintings.
Theories Surrounding the Portrait
Paintings by Gustav Klimt never stayed away from controversies and criticism. He created art that only a few people understood.
The same went with his life, he’d always find himself stuck in one controversy or another. His personal life was full of allegations.
He was heavily criticized, as people believed that he was a womanizer and that his work was way too erotic to be put on display.
He allegedly had 14 children with various women.
People believed that the women he had kids with were his muses for his paintings.
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Adele was Klimt’s Mistress
This is the most debated part of Adele and Klimt’s relationship with each other, rather than an artist and his muse.
Now this speculation comes to light after people started noticing that Klimt never used a woman as his muse more than once.
But in Adele’s case, they were both highly intrigued by each other on an intellectual level.
And Klimt never really cleared up these rumors by giving any clarification, but everyone in that era believed that they had a secret affair.
It is also believed that Ferdinand commissioned Klimt to make his wife’s portrait, and he paid him a hefty amount of money as well.
It is also assumed that the reason Klimt painted Adele twice was either because of his relationship with Adele or because he was getting paid heavily.
Marie Altmann, who is Adele’s niece, finally decided to speak up on the ongoing rumor in a series named “Lady in Gold.”
In that series, she said that they both had an intellectual friendship, and although they were more than friends, neither of them ever accepted it.
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Adele’s Will Stated That The Painting Should Remain in Belvedere Palace.
As Adele Bloch-Bauer was known to be an aesthete and a socialite, she commissioned a lot of artworks and paintings under her name.
Her husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer did the same for her. He hired artist like Gustav Klimt to portray his wife on a canvas.
But unfortunately, Adele succumbed to death at the young age of 43 due to meningitis, which left Ferdinand and the artworks alone.
During her last days, Adele wrote in her will that she wanted all the paintings and her portraits to be placed in the Belvedere Palace in Austria.
But, after a while, Ferdinand changed the will and took control of it by stating that the paintings would remain in the family.
But, during the Nazi invasion, all the artworks and paintings were stolen and Ferdinand had to flee to save his life.
Nazism affected the people of Vienna and their art culture as well. Woman in Gold painting was one of the stolen paintings as well.
After facing so many years of struggle and witnessing wars and courts, now the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is in the permanent collection of Neue Galerie in NYC.
What Does “The Lady in Gold” Signifies?
The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I or the lady in gold, signifies that the emotions behind the painting are often misunderstood.
It simply means that the most common assumption of people when they came across this portrait was that Adele lived a fabulous life with no regrets.
This portrait of her is covered in golden and silver motifs, yet, her face recites a story of sadness and grief.
Klimt was able to portray Adele easily, as she was the only woman to sit twice for a portrait by Klimt.
These were a few things that could be analyzed within the Golden Lady painting by Klimt.
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Analyzing the Portrait of “Adele Bloch-Bauer I”
The portrait “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” is a work of art in many ways.
It is a portrait that hints at several art periods, such as Art Nouveau, Modern art, Vienna Secession, and Symbolism.
This portrait has hidden meaning behind the sparkly colors and motifs.
This portrait marks the importance of the Viennese symbolism with intricate detailing related to feminine features.
This portrait was praised by the Nazis as well, but they stole it so they could claim that its their work of art.
In the portrait, Adele can be seen posing for Klimt and it is not clear till date whether she is standing or sitting.
Various elements have been used by Klimt to add details to the portrait, which can be seen if someone takes a close look at the painting.
Use of oil paints and gold can be clearly seen in the painting and also Klimt has marked the year of completion below the painting.
This portrait took him 5 years and more than 100 sketches to actually depict Adele with accuracy and to be able to convey the message as well.
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Symbolism Along with Theme
The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer or as she is more commonly known, the lady in gold, is almost fully covered in gold.
The painting also features a lot of symbols and themes in the frame, where it becomes almost confusing as to how a viewer will understand it.
But on closer inspection, we can see shapes like circles, squares, and triangles that balance the overall portrait.
Also, it is a matter of debate whether Adele is standing or sitting in the painting because the dress she is wearing is like an overall.
On a detailed inspection, we can also see that Gustav has painted European evil eye marks in triangles on her dress.
The reason behind it was stated to be that she was sick most of the time, you can also see her initials (AB) painted throughout the canvas.
The reason behind marking her initials was to claim Adele’s ownership of the portrait.
Texture and Shades
The subject of this beautiful portrait is Adele, who is portrayed as a young lady who is sporting golden attire and jewels.
The woman in gold painting is covered in gold and jewelry.
Talking about the texture of this painting, if the background is looked closely, one can see 3D structures of spiral symbols.
The way paint has been spread by Klimt gives the painting a textured effect which also makes the subject pop out even more.
Overall, Klimt has used the shades of colors in almost the hues of gold, yellow and hints of pink, blue, red and brown.
To enhance the color of Adele’s skin tone Klimt has also used pink and red as blush and lipstick to enhance her features.
Overall, the painting seems to be rough in texture due to the practice of the impasto technique, but overall Klimt gave the painting a godly look and feel.
Perception of Adele
Reading paintings and understanding them can be difficult at times, and everyone has their own perception towards the creation.
Now, talking about the “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.”
For some, it remains a mysterious woman, and for others, it is just a portrait of a woman who is trying to hide her sadness by covering it with wealth.
Klimt first showcased his work in 1907, aside from the portrait of Fritza, and that’s when he received criticism and mixed reactions.
People thought that it was unnecessary to use original gold and silver leaves in a painting.
This caused a reaction among the art collectors, and they also accused him of playing with the anatomy of art.
Some people have also stated that Adele is portrayed in so much gold that it almost looks like she is an idler originating from a shrine.
Idle is a big term to which art enthusiasts compare Adele, but that was the era when Klimt painted, and it rose to fame.
Influence on the Art World
This artwork by Gustav Klimt held a special place in his career and the Bloch-Bauer family.
He produced artwork that people from around the world praised a lot.
Not only did he influence the artists like Egon Schiele, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Hans Makart, etc.
He was also a leading member and founder of the Vienne Secession movement, which supported artists from Austria.
Even though he created artworks that were erotic, he was still considered one of the painters who used to decorate their paintings with several elements.
Klimt not only inspired artists through his art but also inspired writers and filmmakers.
A British motion picture released a movie called Woman in Gold in 2015 which was inspired by the Klimt’s artwork.
Also, many authors covered Adele’s story in their books, such as, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Pamela Kort, Sophie Lillie, Georg Gaugusch and The Lady in Gold by Anne Marie O’Connor, etc.
Nevertheless, Adele Bloch-Bauer had a huge impact on the art communities around the world.
Is the Golden Lady Still in Appeal?
The portrait of Adele was a masterpiece, which was created by Klimt after 5 years of consecutive research.
And definitely, Klimt’s hard work is worth it because the painting is one of the major attractions in the Neue Galerie, where it sits safely.
The fact that it was stolen during the Nazi invasion yet returned to the roots of the Bloch-Bauer family.
Moreover, if we talk about the appeal in terms of nations, then we cannot forget how Austria wasn’t ready to let go of this painting.
The tragedy of the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I has been on a long journey amid court files, wills, and galleries constantly arguing over keeping it!
But kudos to Maria Altmann, Adele’s niece, who fought for 9 consecutive years to get the painting back.
And when she finally won the case, she insisted on keeping the the portrait in a museum as per her will.
That’s when, in June 2006, the portrait was sold to Ronald Lauder for his collection of public art museums for $135 million.
Lauder placed the painting in the Neue Galleria, which he co-founded in New York City.
Thank you for reading this article about the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I or commonly known as the Lady in Gold.
I have tried to compile the incidents and information that revolve around this famous artwork by Klimt.
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The hidden meaning behind the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is the tragic and sad life incidents which the young Adele had to face over time and had to overcome during her early stages of life.
As a fact that Gustav Klimt never painted his muse more than once but he painted Adele Bloch-Bauer twice as his muse and that too he created Adele’s beautiful portraits.
It is believed that Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who was the husband of Adele Bloch-Bauer commissioned Gustav Klimt to paint the portraits of his wife.