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Sotheby's to Offer a Masterpiece by Gustav Klimt from the Collection of the Late Viktor and Paula Zuckerkandl
Gustav Klimt, Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzlberg on the Attersee). Estimated in excess of $25 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK. NY- Sotheby’s announced that its Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 2 November 2011 in New York will be led by one of the most accomplished and celebrated landscapes created by Gustav Klimt. Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzlberg on the Attersee) is a dramatic view of the lush environs of Lake Attersee in western Austria, painted with Klimt’s sumptuous palette and jewel-like surface. The painting, which is estimated in excess of $25 million,* follows the sale of Kirche in Cassone (Landschaft mit Zypressen) (Church in Cassone – Landscape with Cypresses), which set an auction record for a landscape by the artist when it achieved £26.9 million ($43.2 million) at Sotheby’s London in February 2010 (est. £12/18 million).

Both paintings, which were originally in the famed collection of Austrian iron magnate Viktor Zuckerkandl and his wife Paula, were stolen after the annexation of Austria in 1938. Both have since been restituted to Georges Jorisch, great-nephew of Viktor, after intensive research revealed that his memory of the works hanging in the family’s home in Purkersdorf was correct. Litzlberg am Attersee was returned to Mr. Jorisch late last week from the Museum der ModerneSalzburg, and a portion of the proceeds from its sale will be donated to that museum for the building of a new extension. The canvas will be on view in New York beginning 29 October.

“We are honoured to once again represent this truly remarkable family,” commented Andrea Jungmann, Managing Director of Sotheby’s Austria. “Thanks to the research of Ruth Pleyer, this wonderful picture has been restituted to its rightful owner. The upcoming sale will benefit not only the heirs of Amalie Redlich, but also the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg.”

Simon Shaw, Senior Vice President and Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department in New York, added, “It is a privilege to present this magnificent landscape by Gustav Klimt at Sotheby’s. Its stunning quality, rarity and important provenance will make this an extraordinary opportunity for today’s collectors of great masterpieces.”

Viktor and Paula Zuckerkandl were at the center of Viennese society and culture at the turn of the 20th century, counting playwright Arthur Schnitzler, composers Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoënberg, and collectors such as Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer and August and Serena Lederer among their friends. The Zuckerkandls entertained the city’s elite from their home in the suburb of Purkersdorf, a masterpiece of modernism by celebrated architect Josef Hoffman known as the Purkersdorf Sanatorium. Viktor and his siblings were also among the most notable patrons of the arts in Vienna at the time, acquiring several extremely important paintings directly from Klimt, including Litzlberg am Attersee. Such purchases helped them form one of the greatest early collections of the artist’s work.

When the Zuckerkandls died in 1927 without children, part of their extraordinary collection was sold, while the remainder passed onto Viktor’s family. Litzlberg am Attersee entered the collection of his sister Amalie Redlich who, together with her daughter Mathilde, was deported to Lodz in 1941 and never heard of again. Her collection was seized by the Gestapo and sold off. In 1947 when Redlich’s son-in-law returned, he could not find a trace of the pictures.

Georges Jorisch, grandson of Amalie Redlich, was able to give an accurate description of the precious canvas hanging with Kirche in Cassone on either side of a bay window at the Purkersdorf Sanatorium, where he lived until leaving Vienna at the age of 10. It took leading Viennese researcher Ruth Pleyer and lawyer Dr. Alfred Noll years of intensive archival research to establish that Mr. Jorisch’s childhood memory was correct, and that Litzlberg am Attersee was one of the paintings from his childhood home that had been stolen by the Nazis.

Since 1944, Litzlberg am Attersee has been part of museum collections in Salzburg–initially in the collection of the Landesgalerie Salzburg, now known as the Residenzgalerie, and later in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, which ultimately returned the painting to Georges Jorisch in July of 2011. Mr. Jorisch will donate a portion of the proceeds from the canvas to the Museum der Moderne for the building of an extension that will be named in Amelie Redlich’s honor.

Litzlberg am Attersee
Klimt and his model Emilie Flöge spent the summer of 1914 in Weissenbach, a town on the south shore of Lake Attersee. The house where Klimt stayed was the subject of two of his paintings, Forsthaus in Weissenbach am Attersee, now in the Neue Galerie, New York and Landhaus am Attersee. Despite their separate lodgings, Klimt and Flöge spent the majority of their time together, and the artist was often seen wandering the area in his kaftan-like cloak, taking photographs or painting.

Although Litzlberg am Attersee has been historically dated to 1915, recent scholarship reveals that Klimt probably painted the work in the latter half of 1914 in his studio in Vienna. The format for this composition likely is based on a postcard of Attersee that the artist had sent to his nephew. Both the present work and that image feature a narrow band of water and lakefront houses in the foreground, set against the massive swell of the wooded hillside, with only a sliver of sky visible at the top-right edge.

Klimt builds up his vision of the town of Litzlberg through a bold mosaic of tessellated colors, with cool blue and green tones punctuated by the bright orange of the roofs. As in many of his later works, Klimt used strong outlines and geometric shapes, influenced by Egon Schiele’s townscapes of Krumau. The effect is a flattening-out of the landscape, and the creation of a richly-textured surface that nevertheless retains great depth in its subtle and delicate modulation of color. Litzlberg am Attersee may also have been inspired by the folk tapestry and stained glass window techniques that interested many German and Austrian artists at the beginning of the 20th century.

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