Klimt’s “Portrait of Fräulein Lieser”: confiscated during the Nazi era

Klimt’s “Portrait of Fräulein Lieser”: confiscated during the Nazi era


EAt the end of January, the Vienna auction house at the Kinsky presented a sensation with Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Fräulein Lieser”, which was long thought lost. Now there is new information about the painting, which will be auctioned in Vienna on April 24th. Until now, it was uncertain who from the extensive Lieser industrial family the portrait originally belonged to. It was also unclear where the work was located between 1925 and 1961 and whether it was confiscated during the Nazi era.

The “Standard” is now unearthing previously unknown archive material. As early as 1961, a report about Klimt’s portrait of a woman appeared in the Viennese newspaper “Die Presse”. The painting appeared when a delicatessen was relocating. The article raises the question of whether the unsigned, unfinished work is a real Klimt and mentions that the art historian Werner Hofmann, who would become the founding director of the Museum of the 20th Century in Vienna in 1962 (the later mumok), took part in a presentation of the I have shown interest in the picture in the planned museum.

It belonged to Lilly Lieser

Based on this, the “Standard” found six letters in the archives of the mumok (Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig Vienna) that Hofmann wrote in 1961 to a certain Adolf Hagenauer – the delicatessen dealer who claimed to have discovered Klimt’s paintings in his warehouse. The entrepreneur, who illegally joined the NSDAP in 1933, was apparently unable to provide Hofmann with a purchase confirmation or any other document to prove the legal purchase.

Hofmann sharply criticized Hagenauer in a letter: “The fact that the picture comes from Jewish ownership and that its owner died in the gas chambers excludes the possibility of legally and morally thinking people selling the picture or incorporating it into the family’s assets “. This letter passage also shows who the picture came into Hagenauer’s possession: the Viennese patron Henriette Amalie “Lilly” Lieser, née Landau, who was murdered as a Jew in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.

How exactly the work of art came from Lilly Lieser’s possession to that of the delicatessen remains unclear. What is certain is that Lieser’s assets were frozen after the annexation of Austria, she had to pay the “Reich Flight Tax” and the “Jewish Property Levy” from the proceeds of foreclosed properties, and she had hardly any cash available in the four years up to her deportation. According to the “Standard”, one of her former tenants said she lived by selling her belongings during this time.


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