Lecture, film on returning Nazi-appropriated art

Aug 09, 2017
Maria Altmann stands with the reclaimed “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” known as The Woman in Gold.

Rockland — Farnsworth Art Museum, in partnership with the Strand Theatre and the Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, will co-present a lecture by attorney Donald S. Burris, followed by a screening of “Stealing Klimt: The Documentary” (2007, UK) Wednesday, Aug. 23, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Strand, 345 Main St.

Beginning with the initial Blitzkrieg and continuing throughout the duration of World War II, the Nazi authorities implemented a pervasive program for stealing valuable artworks as they overran and ravaged most of Western Europe. The artwork was appropriated from mostly Jewish families in the occupied countries and the amount of art plundered was astronomical.

Such was the fate of Gustav Klimt’s famous painting The Woman in Gold, officially titled “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” commissioned by Adele's husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy industrialist and supporter of the arts who shared with his wife a special fondness for Klimt’s work. The Belvedere Palace in Vienna acquired this painting and others from their Nazi holders in 1941 and it remained in the palace until its status was changed by the American courts in lengthy litigation begun in 1999, which Burris will describe in detail, culminating with the 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Altmann v. Republic of Austria.

Burris, an international lawyer and a senior partner at Burris, Schoenberg & Walden, was not only the “other lawyer” working side-by-side with Randy Schoenberg to have Maria Altmann’s historic rights recognized in the Altmann case, but also has been the senior partner in the firm working with other “looted art” cases. He will speak about the case and his other fascinating experiences in connection with his ongoing efforts to repatriate artworks, businesses and real estate stolen by the Nazis.

His brief lecture will be followed by a screening of a documentary about the true story of the Woman in Gold. Burris will take questions following the film, which runs 86 minutes.

Cost is $20, $15 for members of the Farnsworth, Adas Yoshuron Synagogue or the Strand.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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