Family Heirs Announce Restitution Agreement for Klimt Portrait


After years of collaborative provenance research, Ronald S. Lauder and the Beran family heirs have announced a restitution agreement for the portrait painting “The Black Feather Hat” by Gustav Klimt.

Gustav Klimt, The Black Feather Hat painting restitution
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), “The Black Feather Hat,” 1910, oil on canvas; 31 1/8 inches x 24 13/16 inches

From the official statement on the restitution:

This agreement, which includes the restitution and reacquisition of the painting from the Beran heirs, is the result of several years of collaboration during which Mr. Lauder and the Beran heirs have worked with the assistance of expert researchers to advance a new understanding of the painting’s provenance.

Depicting a pensive female sitter adorned with a wide-brimmed hat, “The Black Feather Hat” is first documented as being owned by Irene Beran (1886-1979) in 1928, though it entered the family collection years earlier through her father-in-law Alois Beran. Recent research has confirmed that the painting remained in Irene’s possession in Brno, now part of the Czech Republic, through at least 1934. Its whereabouts from that time until the late 1950s, however, remain unclear.

In 1957, the painting reemerged as part of an exhibition in Stuttgart organized by Württemberg Art Association, Stuttgart, and Friedrich Welz, Salzburg. The work was exhibited extensively throughout the 1960s prior to its acquisition in 1973 in Austria. Since becoming part of Mr. Lauder’s collection, “The Black Feather Hat” has been featured in numerous exhibitions and publications. It was on view most recently from 2019 through 2020 at Neue Galerie New York* in a special exhibition of Austrian masterworks.

The Beran heirs, through their legal counsel Lansky, Ganzger, Goeth, Frankl & Partner, express their gratitude for Mr. Lauder’s generosity of spirit. In so doing, they recall how their grandmother Irene who, until the horrors of the Nazi period so utterly changed the course of her life, was herself an enthusiastic supporter of the arts in her hometown of Brno by exhibiting items from her collection of contemporary Austrian and German artists. The family is confident that Irene would be delighted to know that “The Black Feather Hat” found a home in New York, a city that had, at an important juncture in her refugee life, also been Irene’s home.

Added Mr. Lauder, “Together with the Beran family, we have worked arduously to uncover the full history of this artwork and trace its trajectory through time. While our joint research leaves gaps remaining, I have long championed the importance of restitution. In the spirit of the Washington Conference Principles, I felt it was of utmost importance to arrive at a just and fair solution that recognizes the family’s history with this painting.”

Gustav Klimt is considered one of the most innovative artists of the early 20th century. In 1897, he became one of the founding members of the Vienna Secession, which advocated for a break from the traditional artistic styles of the era. “The Black Feather Hat” marks a departure from Klimt’s now iconic gold leaf and highly decorative paintings, which he had been creating in the early 1900s, and demonstrates his growing interest in Expressionism, reinforced by his budding friendship with the young artist Egon Schiele.

The portrait of the unidentified female sitter is rendered in a monochromatic palette of pinks and light browns and offset by the fashionable black hat that sits atop her auburn hair. The work is central to the public’s understanding of Klimt’s oeuvre and his legacy.

*Related: “The Ronald S. Lauder Collection” On View through March 20, 2023

fine art collection - Ronald S. Lauder
Ronald S. Lauder, 2022. Photo by Shahar Azran

From the gallery:

Neue Galerie New York culminates its twentieth anniversary season with the opening of “The Ronald S. Lauder Collection,” a major exhibition featuring approximately 500 works from the collection of the museum’s co-founder and President, many of which have never been on public display.

Gustav Klimt, "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I," 1907, oil, gold, and silver on canvas, Neue Galerie New York. Acquired through the generosity of Ronald S. Lauder, the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer, and the Estée Lauder Fund
Gustav Klimt, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” 1907, oil, gold, and silver on canvas, Neue Galerie New York. Acquired through the generosity of Ronald S. Lauder, the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer, and the Estée Lauder Fund

Developed over the course of 65 years, the Lauder Collection is defined by an absolute dedication to the art of beauty, quality, and rarity. Only on one other occasion has the public had the opportunity to explore the collection comprehensively, in a special exhibition organized in honor of the museum’s tenth anniversary.

Bernardo Daddi, "Madonna and Child with Four Angels," Central Predella panel from the San Giorgio a Ruballa Alterpiece, 1348, tempera and gold on panel
Bernardo Daddi, “Madonna and Child with Four Angels,” Central Predella panel from the San Giorgio a Ruballa Alterpiece, 1348, tempera and gold on panel, private collection

Now, for its twentieth anniversary year, the Neue Galerie reveals the continued evolution of the Lauder Collection, including masterworks of Greek and Roman sculpture, Italian thirteenth and fourteenth-century gold-ground paintings, objects for a Kunstkammer, and Austrian and German painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the early twentieth century.

With a focus on important additions to the core collection, as well as new areas of inquiry, the exhibition conveys the collector’s commitment to excellence across a broad spectrum of art. Displayed throughout the museum’s two gallery floors, the exhibition situates these works in domestically scaled settings similar to how they appear in Lauder’s own home.

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