Lady with fan to be auctioned

Gustav Klimt: Lady with a Fan, 1917/18, private collection
© Belvedere, Wien

Moriz Nähr: Gustav Klimt's workshop in Feldmühlgasse, presumably 1917, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung
© Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

"Dear Mr. Böhler! What's coming now is utterly pathetic! I wanted to finish the painting on July 15. - Underestimated the work - trusted my strength too much [...]", wrote Gustav Klimt on 10 July 1917 to Erwin Böhler, a major industrialist and owner of the island of Litzlberg on Lake Attersee since 1916, which Klimt also immortalized in two famous paintings. In his letter to Böhler, the artist of the century is presumably referring to one of his last works of art: Lady with Fan. This mysterious portrait remained on an easel in Klimt's last studio in Vienna-Hietzing, as did his monumental painting The Bride (1917/18, unfinished), one of the integral parts of the collection of the non-profit Klimt Foundation, which is currently on display in the Upper Belvedere.

Lady with Fan forms a transition between the veiled ladies wearing fashionable accessories as attributes and the Viennese ladies whom Klimt had depicted as exotic beauties. The long, swan-like neck and the kimono slipping over the shoulders, which is characterized by brightly coloured patterns, allow an erotic glimpse of the model. The fan also serves as an element of hidden eroticism. The choice of colors and style reveal expressive traits, and parts of the garment in particular are reminiscent of the materiality of Egon Schiele. The background shows Klimt's well-known Asian motifs.

This portrait, which has been in private ownership since 1994 and was last on public display at the Upper Belvedere in 2021, will now be auctioned at Sotheby's London on June 27.