This Week's Wow: Uncovering the History of "The Woman In Gold"'s Gold Dress
In this weekly feature, InStyle’s Fashion News Director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come. Look for it on What’s Right Now every Friday.
The Moment: Thursday morning, Ronald Lauder, the cosmetics executive and president of the World Jewish Congress, who is also co-founder of the Neue Galerie in Manhattan, was standing in the museum in front of the Gustav Klimt's 1907 portrait of “Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” The painting, which has also been known as “The Woman in Gold,” is one of Klimt’s most famous works, one that has inspired countless designers over decades, and also one with a fascinating history that is the subject of a new film being released on Wednesday.
Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, tells the story of Maria Altmann, who fought a decade-long legal battle to get back her family’s art collection, which had been seized by the Nazis when her ancestors fled Austria. The portrait of Bloch-Bauer, a prime example of Klimt’s gold-period, was sold to Lauder in 2006 and has become a centerpiece of the Neue Galerie’s collection of German and Austrian art from the early 20th century.
“In Woman in Gold, worldwide audiences will see how difficult that was,” Lauder said. “There are something like 100,000 works of art still unaccounted for. For many of them, we know where they are, but we still can’t get to them.”
Why It’s a Wow: Klimt’s portrait, with Bloch-Bauer presented in a gown of glittering gold, was the first undertaken after his trip to Ravenna, Italy, in 1903, where he had been inspired by the 6th-century Byzantine mosaics. Many of his sketches for the work are now on display at the Neue Galerie, offering a unique window into the process of a painter who had a special connection to fashion through his friendship with the designer Emilie Flöge. Flöge was a proponent of the reform style of dress that is seen in many of his paintings, reflecting a movement in Vienna in the early 1900s to reject the corset and promote more individual forms of dress, most notably looser-fitting, artistically designed gowns.
It is hardly surprising that the works from that period have inspired free-thinking designers ever since, even as recently as the fall collection of Valentino designers Marie Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, shown this month in Paris with a nod to both Flöge and Celia Birtwell, the wife and muse of Ossie Clark. Also inspired by the painting was Aerin Lauder, who created a special lipstick collection under her Aerin label for the Neue Galerie. The limited-edition set, for $64, includes two shades, one called Liebling, designed after the warm blush tones of Bloch-Bauer’s lips, the other called Sequin, after the gold shimmer of her dress.
Learn More: Visit the Neue Galerie for a special exhibition, “Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold,” opening Tuesday, for more insight into the artist’s creation of the painting over four years, as well as the life of his subject.