This painting is one of two formal portraits that Klimt made of Adele Bloch-Bauer, one of the artists most important patrons. The wife of the successful industrialist, Bloch-Bauer was a prominent member of the Vienna’s cultural elite, serving as a key supporter of the arts and the founder of a salon for artists and writers. Klimt’s composition, completed when Bloch-Bauer was about 30 years old, emphasizes her social station: her towering figure, in opulent dress, extends to the vertical limits of the canvas and confronts the viewer head-on from its center. She poses against a jewel-toned backdrop of nearly abstract pattern blocks that suggest a richly decorated domestic interior.
In 1938, the Nazi government took possession of this portrait along with other works of art from the Bloch-Bauer family collection (including Adele Bloch-Bauer I, now in the collection of the Neue Gallerie in New York). In 2006, after years of legal negotiations, the works were returned to the Bloch-Bauer heirs and subsequently sold to other collections. The Museum of Modern Art presents Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) as a generous loan from its current owner.