Serena Pulitzer Lederer (1867–1943)

Gustav Klimt (Austrian, Baumgarten 1862–1918 Vienna)

Oil on canvas
75 1/8 x 33 5/8 in. (190.8 x 85.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Wolfe Fund, and Rogers and Munsey Funds, Gift of Henry Walters, and Bequests of Catharine Lorillard Wolfe and Collis P. Huntington, by exchange, 1980
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Klimt painted this portrait of the wife of Viennese industrialist August Lederer in 1899, two years after founding the Vienna Secession to reform art in the Austrian capital and raise it to a level of international importance. The painting was shown in the tenth Secession exhibition in 1901. Klimt also painted the couple's daughter Elisabeth Franziska, Baroness Bachofen-Echt (Kunstmuseum, Basel), and Serena's mother, Charlotte Pulitzer (present whereabouts unknown).

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): GVS.TAV / KLIMT·

  • Provenance

    August and Serena Lederer, Bartensteingasse, Vienna (1899–his d. 1936; commissioned from the artist for 35,000 kronen); Serena Lederer, Vienna (1936–d. 1943); their son, Erich Lederer, Geneva (1943–80; sale, Dorotheum, Vienna, March 18–20, 1948, no. 76, as "Bildnis einer stehenden Dame in weißem Gesellschaftskleid vor hellgrauen Hintergrund," for (Ba) (8000,-) 3000, withdrawn [with no. 75, Klimt's portrait of his sister, Elisabeth (N & D 188)] ; on deposit from 1949–80 in the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Kunstmuseum Basel; sold to MMA)

  • Exhibition History

    Vienna. Secession. "X. Kunst Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bilden der Künstler Österreichs Secession," March 15–May 12, 1901, no. 66 (as "Bildnis Serena Lederer") [see Nebehay 1969].

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Klimt, Schiele, Moser, Kokoschka: Vienne 1900," October 3, 2005–January 23, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 231).

    Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 28.

    The Hague. Gemeentemuseum. "Toorop in Wenen: Inspiratie voor Klimt," October 7, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 50.

    New York. Neue Galerie. "Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900," February 24–August 8, 2011, no. 47.

  • References

    Ludwig Hevesi. "Neue Bilder von Klimt: Sezession." Fremden-Blatt (March 16, 1901) [reprinted in "Acht Jahre Sezession (Marz 1897–June 1906) Kritik - Polemik - Chronik," by Ludwig Hevesi, Vienna, 1906, p. 318].

    Ver Sacrum 4 (March 15, 1901), p. 155, figs. 280, 338 (installation of painting in the 1901 Secession exhibition) [see Refs. Novotny and Dobai 1968 and Nebehay 1969].

    Gustav Klimt, eine Nachlese. Vienna, 1931, p. 15, pl. 6.

    Emil Pirchan. Gustav Klimt. Vienna, 1956, p. 53, erroneously dates it 1902, and places it in the collection "L" in Geneva.

    Gustav Klimt: 150 bedeutende Zeichnungen. Exh. cat., Christian M. Nebehay. Vienna, 1962, unpaginated, under no. 24.

    Christian M. Nebehay. Gustav Klimt, eine Nachlese: 70 bedeutende Zeichnungen. Exh. cat., Christian M. Nebehay. Vienna, [1963], p. 4, ill., notes that Klimt received 35,000 Kronen for it.

    Fritz Novotny and Johannes Dobai. Gustav Klimt, With a Catalogue Raisonné of His Paintings. German ed. 1967. New York, 1968, pp. 312–13, 360–61, 384, no. 103, ill. p. 312 and pl. 17, date it 1899; enumerate the sketches in Vienna at the Albertina and the Historisches Museum.

    Gustav Klimt: Dokumentation. Vienna, 1969, pp. 38, 176, 191–192 n. 2, 193, 239, 249, colorpl. 280 and fig. 338, remarks that this commission marks the beginning of Klimt's relationship with the Lederer family, who became the most important collectors of his work; reproduces a photograph of the installation of the 1901 Secession exhibition.

    Christian M. Nebehay. Gustav Klimt: Sein Leben nach zeitgenössischen Berichten und Quellen. Munich, 1969, pp. 141–42, fig. 156, places it in the E. Lederer collection, on deposit at the Kunstmuseum Basel.

    Johannes Dobai. Gustav Klimt. Exh. cat., The Piccadilly Gallery. London, 1973, unpaginated, under no. 7.

    Alessandra Comini. Gustav Klimt. New York, 1975, pp. 13, 17, 30, colorpl. 4, notes the influence of Whistler.

    Peter Vergo. Art in Vienna 1898–1918. London, 1975, pp. 226–27, pl. 195.

    Gustav Klimt: Die Goldene Pforte, Werk - Wesen - Wirkung. Salzburg, 1978, p. 12.

    Sergio Coradeschi in L'opera completa di Klimt. Milan, 1978, pp. 96–97, no. 84, ill. and colorpl. XIV.

    Alice Strobl. "1878–1903." Gustav Klimt: die Zeichnungen. 1, Salzburg, 1980, pp. 143–44, ill., identifies and illustrates thirteen studies.

    John Pope-Hennessy in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1980–1981. New York, 1981, p. 47, ill. (color).

    Angelica Bäumer. Gustav Klimt: Women. London, 1986, pp. 25, 50, colorpl. 11 [German ed., "Gustav Klimt: Frauen," Galerie Welz, Salzburg, 1985], incorrectly as in the Lederer collection, Geneva.

    Christian M. Nebehay. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, und die Familie Lederer. Bern, 1987, pp. 24–25, ill. (color).

    Christian Brandstätter in Gustav Klimt. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. Stuttgart, 1992, pp. 329–30, 366, ill. (color).

    Christian M. Nebehay. Gustav Klimt, von der Zeichnung zum Bild. Vienna, 1992, pp. 194–95, 225 n. 3, fig. 226 (color), erroneously reports that Lederer paid Kr 30,000 for it.

    Christian Brandstätter. Gustav Klimt und die Frauen. Vienna, 1994, pp. 54–55, ill. (color detail).

    Catherine Dean. Klimt. London, 1996, pp. 21, 54–55, no. 12, colorpl. 12, suggests that Serena commissioned the portrait from Klimt after his success with that of Sonja Knips (N & D 91; Österreichische Galerie, Vienna).

    Tobias G. Natter in Klimt's Women. Exh. cat., Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. Cologne, 2000, pp. 35, 45, 48, 59, 68, 88–91, 133, 199, ill. (color) [German ed., "Klimt und die Frauen," Dumont, Cologne, 2000, pp. 36, 45, 49, 59, 62, 67, 69, 88–91, 133, 140, 199–200, ill. (color)], gives details of Serena's life and marriage, and of the Lederers' art patronage; credits the Dutch Symbolist Jan Toorop with the parallel linear structures that make up the garment; notes that Klimt preferred pale-colored dresses and comments that Serena's "empire-style 'Reformkleid,' designed for a body unrestricted by whalebone corsets, emphasizes the clearly sensual aspect of the wearer".

    Marian Bisanz-Prakken in Gustav Klimt: Modernism in the Making. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. New York, 2001, pp. 107, 152, 225 n. 40, fig. 95 (color), notes that the studies for this portrait employ a compositional device that Klimt first used here, with the standing figure cut off at the top and bottom of the sheet.

    Stephan Koja. Gustav Klimt Landscapes. Exh. cat.Munich, 2002, p. 196.

    Sophie Lillie. Was einmal war: Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens. Vienna, 2003, p. 664, ill. p. 661.

    Sylvie Aigner in Klimt, Schiele, Moser, Kokoschka: Vienne 1900. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 2005, pp. 230, 234, ill. p. 231 (color), suggests that Klimt chose the modern dress worn by Lederer for this picture, noting that she allowed the artist to use her wardrobe for the models in his painting "Schubert at the Piano" of the same year (no longer extant).

    Katharine Baetjer in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 155–60, no. 28, ill. (color, overall and details), observes that although Klimt admired Whistler, he would have only known his "Symphony in White" (National Gallery of Art, Washington) from a reproduction, which could not have conveyed its color effects; discusses this picture's similarities to Klimt's portrait of Sonia Knips (Österreichische Galerie, Vienna) and to his "Schubert at the Piano" and a sketch for "Jurisprudence" (both formerly Lederer collection, no longer extant).

    Marian Bisanz-Prakken. Toorop/ Klimt. Toorop in Wenen: Inspiratie voor Klimt. Exh. cat., Gemeentemuseum, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2006, pp. 130–31, no. 50, ill. (color).

  • Notes

    Serena Lederer and her husband August Lederer were Klimt's most important patrons. They owned, among many other works, Klimt's "Philosophy" (Novotny and Dobai 1968 no. 87), "Jurisprudence" (N & D 86), and the monumental "Beethoven Frieze" (N & D 127; Österreichische Galerie, Vienna). Klimt painted the Lederers' daughter Elisabeth Franziska, Baroness Bachofen-Echt (N & D 188; Kunstmuseum, Basel) and Serena's mother, Charlotte Pulitzer (N & D 190; stolen, whereabouts unknown). Most of the collection was seized as Jewish property and stored at Schloss Immendorf, which the German troops ignited as the Russians approached in 1945.

    For information on the thirteen preliminary drawings for this portrait, see Strobl's 1980 catalogue raisonné of Klimt's drawings. Nine drawings are at the Albertina, Vienna (nos. 442, 444, 446, 448–49, 451–54), two at the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (nos. 447, 450), one in the British Museum (no. 445), and one in a private collection (no. 443).

    The painting is in its original frame.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History