Last portrait by Gustav Klimt expected to fetch £65m at London auction

  • london
  • June 14, 2023
  • Comments Off on Last portrait by Gustav Klimt expected to fetch £65m at London auction
Last portrait by Gustav Klimt expected to fetch £65m at London auction thumbnail

A portrait by Gustav Klimt described as a “heartfelt ode to absolute beauty” is expected to fetch £65m when it is sold in London later this month.

Dame mit Fächer (Lady with Fan) is the last portrait Klimt completed. The work was standing on an easel in his studio when the Austrian painter died unexpectedly of a stroke and pneumonia in 1918 at the age of 55.

It is one of the finest and most valuable works of art to be offered in Europe, said Sotheby’s, which is selling the painting nearly 30 years after it was acquired by its present owners.

“Dame mit Fächer is the last portrait Gustav Klimt completed before his untimely death, when he was still in his artistic prime and producing some of his most accomplished and experimental works,” said Helena Newman, Sotheby’s worldwide head of impressionist and modern art.

“Many of those works, certainly the portraits for which he is best known, were commissions. This, though, is something completely different – a technical tour de force, full of boundary-pushing experimentation, as well as a heartfelt ode to absolute beauty.”

The portrait reflects Klimt’s fascination with Chinese and Japanese art and culture. Photograph: Sotheby’s

The portrait is of an unnamed woman whose loose robe reveals a bared shoulder against a vivid background of flowers and birds. It reflects Klimt’s fascination with Chinese and Japanese art and culture; he filled his home with Chinese ceramics and Japanese woodblock prints, and often dressed in silk kimonos or Chinese robes.

The portrait is painted in a square format, sized roughly 1 sq metre, which Klimt reserved for his most avant-garde works.

“The beauty and sensuality of the portrait lies in the detail: the flecks of blue and pink which enliven the sitter’s skin, the feathery lines of her eyelashes and the pursed lips that give her face character,” said Thomas Boyd-Bowman, head of impressionist and modern art evening sales at Sotheby’s.

“Klimt here gave himself full freedom to capture on canvas a devastatingly beautiful woman. Her provocatively bared shoulder, poise and quiet self-assurance combine to stunning effect.”

skip past newsletter promotion

Dame mit Fächer was acquired soon after Klimt’s death by Erwin Böhler, a Viennese industrialist and close friend of the artist. It is one of only a small number of portraits by Klimt remaining in private hands.

Klimt’s landscape painting Birch Forest was sold last year for $104.6m (£83m). His Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, from 1912, fetched $87.9m (£70m) in 2008.