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Gustav Klimt portrait found after vanishing nearly 100 years ago

LONDON — One of the last paintings by the renowned Austrian artist Gustav Klimt has miraculously been found after vanishing nearly 100 years ago.

The painting, titled Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, was found in Vienna after last being seen by the public in 1925. Until now, the only known photograph of the painting had been held in the archives of the Austrian National Library. The picture was likely taken in 1925 in connection with the Klimt exhibition by Otto Kallir-Nirenstein in the Neue Galerie, Vienna.

Since then, its location had been a mystery.

“The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt’s last creative period, is a sensation,” said the im Kinsky auction house in a statement announcing the discovery. “As a key figure of Viennese Art Nouveau, Gustav Klimt epitomizes fin de siècle Austrian Modernism more than any other artist. His work, particularly his portraits of successful women from the upper middle class at the turn of the century, enjoy the highest recognition worldwide.”

The work of art will go up for auction at the im Kinsky auction house in Vienna on April 24 and is expected to fetch millions on the market.

Gustav Klimt portrait found after vanishing nearly 100 years ago

A cameraman takes footage of the painting Bildnis Fraeulein Lieser (Portrait of Miss Lieser) by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) during a press conference of the Kinsky Art Auction House in Vienna, on Jan. 25, 2024.

Roland Schlager/APA/AFP via Getty Images

“Klimt’s paintings rank in the top echelons of the international art market. His portraits of women are seldom offered at auctions. A painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades,” im Kinsky auction house said. “This also applies to Austria, where no work of art of even approximate importance has been available.”

The painting will now travel worldwide on short exhibitions until it is auctioned and is set to be presented at various locations internationally, including stops in Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain and Hong Kong.

The model for the painting is labeled as Fräulein Lieser, also known as Margarethe Constance Lieser (1899-1965), daughter of the Austrian industrial magnate Adolf Lieser. But new research by the im Kinsky auction house into the history and provenance of the masterpiece has opened up the possibility that Klimt’s model could have been another member of the Lieser family — either Helene Lieser (1898-1962), the first-born of Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau and Justus Lieser, or their younger daughter, Annie Lieser (1901-1972), according to officials.

PHOTO: Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Fräulein Lieser.

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Fräulein Lieser.

im Kinsky Auction House

“In April and May 1917, the sitter visited Klimt’s studio in Hietzing nine times to pose for him,” im Kinsky said. “Klimt probably began the painting in May 1917. The painter chose a three-quarter portrait for his depiction and shows the young woman in a strictly frontal pose, close to the foreground, against a red, undefined background. A cape richly decorated with flowers is draped around her shoulders.”

The portrait is thought to be one of Klimt’s last paintings and was done shortly before he died of a stroke on Feb. 6, 1918. The painting was left, with several small portions of it unfinished, in his studio and it is thought that the painting was given to the family who had commissioned it after his death.

The painting, however, would soon vanish and the exact fate of the painting after 1925 is unclear.

“What is known is that it was acquired by a legal predecessor of the consignor in the 1960s and went to the current owner through three successive inheritances,” im Kinsky auction house said.