The Dazzling Klimt ‘Waterscape’ That Could Sell for $45 Million

Good morning. We’ll find out about a painting that was brought to New York as the Nazis tightened their hold on Austria 85 years ago. It’s going on the auction block. We’ll also get a preview of the trial in which Donald Trump is accused of raping a woman in a department-store dressing room in the 1990s.

The Austrian artist Gustav Klimt is perhaps best known for stunning gold-trimmed portraits, but he also painted landscapes. And a landscape was one of three Klimts that the Viennese art dealer Otto Kallir carried with him when the Nazis tightened their hold on Austria in 1938 and Kallir fled, ending up in New York.

The landscape, “Island in the Attersee,” became a centerpiece of “Saved From Europe,” a celebrated 1940 exhibition at the gallery on 57th Street that Kallir opened. It was sold after Kallir’s death in 1978 and now is to be sold again. This time, Sotheby’s expects it to go for $45 million when it is auctioned next month.

That would put it behind a handful of other Klimts that have changed hands in big-money transactions, notably “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” which the cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder bought for the Neue Galerie in Manhattan for $135 million in 2006 — at the time, the most ever paid for a painting. Another portrait of Bloch-Bauer went for $87.9 million in 2006 at Christie’s, which last year sold “Birch Forest,” from the collection of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, for $104.5 million.

Sotheby’s sold a Klimt garden scene for $59 million in 2017. Klimt also painted that canvas, “Bauerngarten (Blumengarten),” at Lake Attersee several years after the one to be sold next month. Sotheby’s would not identify the seller of “Island in the Attersee.”

Helena Newman, Sotheby’s chairman for Europe and its worldwide head of impressionist and modern art, said that “Island” was “an exceptional work from his body of landscapes, which represent about half his work, actually.”

But “landscape” is the wrong term for “Island,” she said: “It’s a waterscape, an innovative, quite avant-garde study of water.” She said Klimt had created it “just at the moment in his career when he was developing into his mature self.”

Attersee had “personal significance” for Klimt, who spent his summers there, Newman said. “It was completely different from the metropolitan hectic life of Vienna, where he was executing these high-pressure, high-profile commissions for portraits for the salons,” she said. “This was back to nature.”

She said Kallir had bought “Island” in 1937, when the Nazis were characterizing modern art as “degenerate” and, as Otto Kallir’s granddaughter Jane wrote in 2019, “expunged all the ‘degenerate’ art from German public collections” before selling it abroad.

“Those who bought ‘degenerate’ art in the 1930s and ’40s often felt they were engaged in a heroic salvage mission,” Jane Kallir wrote. She added that the news release for the “Saved From Europe” show noted that the paintings on display had “escaped destruction by air raid, fire or water, or at best, the ‘honor’ of wandering into some Nazi collection.” (“Adele Bloch Bauer I,” considered one of Klimt’s masterpieces, was the subject of a long restitution battle involving the Austrian government and a niece of Bloch-Bauer, who argued that it had been seized by the Nazis along with four other Klimts. All five paintings were awarded to the niece in 2006.)

The “Saved From Europe” show also featured nine works by Egon Schiele. But Carlyle Burrows, reviewing the exhibition for The New York Herald Tribune, said he doubted that the Klimts and Schieles would get the reception Kallir had hoped for. Burrows mentioned a Picasso that was also in the show before discussing Klimt and Schiele.

“It is difficult to awaken enthusiasm at this point for artists so little known and appreciated here and for many years passed from the contemporary scene in Europe,” Burrows wrote. Klimt had died in 1918. But Kallir was unfazed, promoting Klimt and organizing the first solo exhibition of his works in the United States in 1959.

Of the other Klimts in “Saved From Europe,” in the 1950s Kallir gave one to Harvard and sold the other to the Museum of Modern Art. It was MoMA’s first Klimt.

Klimt was not the only artist Kallir promoted. “Saved From Europe” opened in June 1940. A few months later, the gallery opened an exhibition called “What a Farm Wife Painted.” It was the first one-woman show of canvases by an American whom Kallir had discovered, Anna Mary Moses, who became known as Grandma Moses.


It’s another mostly sunny day near the low 60s. At night it’s mostly clear, with temps dropping to around the mid-40s.


In effect until May 18 (Solemnity of the Ascension).

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Trump faces a lawsuit accusing him of rape

This morning, a judge will oversee the process of choosing the jurors who will decide whether Donald Trump raped a woman in a dressing room at a Fifth Avenue department store in the 1990s.

The trial, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, arises from a lawsuit filed against Trump by E. Jean Carroll, a former magazine columnist and author, and it follows years of accusations and denials in articles, interviews and social media posts. Carroll said nothing about the encounter until 2019, when she published the allegation in New York magazine and in a book.

Jury selection will begin against the backdrop of other legal cases involving Trump, who says the various proceedings against him are intended to drag him down as he seeks another term in the White House.

Carroll alleged in her lawsuit that when she and Trump ran into each other at the department store Bergdorf Goodman — they had met at least once before and traveled in the same social circles, she said — Trump told her that he was shopping for a present for “a girl” and asked her to help him pick something out. She said they went to the lingerie department where, she maintains, he maneuvered her into a dressing room and attacked her.

Trump, 76, has denied raping Carroll, 79. He has accused her of lying and attacked her in public statements and on social media, both while he was president and after leaving office.

Her lawyers will ask the jurors to find Trump liable for battery and, if they do so, to award monetary damages.

My colleague Benjamin Weiser writes that Trump’s history of lashing out at judges, law enforcement officials and even individual jurors in other cases prompted the judge presiding over the Carroll lawsuit to try to safeguard jurors who might worry about retribution by Trump’s supporters. The judge, Lewis Kaplan, has ordered that the jurors’ names be kept secret, even from the lawyers representing Carroll and Trump.


Christmas ’64

Dear Diary:

It was the week after Christmas 1964. I was a Delta stewardess on a 24-hour layover staying at the Belmont Plaza Hotel at Lexington and 49th Street.

I went on a marathon shopping spree, taking advantage of the after-Christmas sales. Afterward, I returned to the hotel restaurant for dinner.

I noticed a man sitting across the room in a booth. He came over and introduced himself. He was a naval aviator on leave and enjoying New York City.

We had dinner together. I excused myself early as our crew had a 5 a.m. wake-up call. When it came, we were told our flight had been canceled until the next day. Something about fog in Atlanta.

I went down to the restaurant for breakfast and the aviator was there. We had breakfast together. Later we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and had lunch.

That night we saw the play “Ben Franklin in Paris” and had dinner at Jack Dempsey’s restaurant. I think Dempsey was there that night.

The next day, I flew back to my base in Dallas. He flew back to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas. We were married later that year and for 38 years until his death in 2003. Thank you, N.Y.C.

— Judy Downing

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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