Woman In Gold – The Untold Story

I cried more than once. The movie, “Woman In Gold” is powerful and emotional. It’s a true story about holocaust survivor, Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren. The story follows her journey to recover a world-famous Klimt painting of her Aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. This film draws much of its strength from Mirren’s spirited performance. Ryan Reynolds effectively plays the attorney, Randy Schoenberg, who helps Ms. Altmann recover the works of art looted from her family by the Nazis. Reynolds’ lively rapport with Mirren gives momentum and life to the movie.

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Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) by Gustav Klimpt, sold for a record $135 million in 2006.

In part, this movie is about loss and the atrocities of the holocaust but it is also about an exceptional family who loved music and art. Maria had a close bond with her Aunt Adele. Their affection and love for one another was well depicted in the movie.

Remember The Good

My family was invited to see the movie with Jim Altmann, one of Maria Altmann’s sons. I could tell it meant a lot to Jim to be able to share the moment with a big group of his family and friends. I asked him, “what was the predominate impression you took away from the movie?” Jim answered, “Good question; Every time I see it, something different stands out. Seeing it this time I’d say, remember the good memories.” Like Jim, I also felt that message resonated in the movie. The movie also carried the message of courage and the importance of remembering your ancestors.

One of the Great Battles in Art History

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Steven Eichberg at the theater with a reproduction of Klimpt’s portrait of Adele, the original resides in Neue Galerie, New York.

At the reception following the movie, I inquired if Jim felt the film told the story factually. He said, “yes, it did do a good job of revealing most of the facts.” He loved the movie overall and felt the description of some of the events surrounding Maria’s  journey to reclaim her family’s property were well done. But exactly how hard and for how long Maria fought, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, was not quite accurately described. Jim Altmann continues, “my mother was in her 90’s and Helen is in her 70’s. The process was very long, drawn out and exhausting, much more so than what was shown in the movie.” I can imagine how much more difficult the burden would have been on a woman in her 90’s. The trips to Vienna and the constant rejection and deception would have been a lot for anyone.

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Memories of Maria Altmann lovingly displayed at the reception

A Quest For Truth and Justice

“Woman in Gold” was supremely entertaining, masterfully directed and brilliantly acted! One the most touching parts of the film was when Ms. Altmann shared a story about a woman, her friend, shown in another portrait. This woman was flesh and blood to her, part of her life. She was not a ghost from the past on a lifeless piece of art. So many families of good people were decimated during the Nazi reign. So much beauty was lost. This was the truth she wanted the world to know. Legal battles to win the return of art confiscated by the Nazi’s continues, with an estimated 100,000 works of art still at issue.

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Maria Altmann

 

This Generation of Altmann’s

The movie did not go very deeply into Maria Altmann’s family life during the time of the trials. Ms. Altmann’s son, Jim, lives in our area. He own’s a successful Southern California construction firm. His daughter, Alana, grew up with my daughter, Lindsay, and is one of her best friends. My husband Steven and I spent a lot of time with Alana and love her like a daughter. Alana and her mom have taken my Yoga/Pilates classes.

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Alana and Maria Altmann

Lindsay has also shared quite a few special moments with the Altmann family. Lindsay enjoyed playing Scrabble with Maria and hearing her stories.  She gives accolades to Helen Mirren for the way she captured the spirit and essence of Maria Altmann in her portrayal.

Lindsay and Alana have helped each other grow into well-rounded, intelligent, hard-working woman who are comfortable in their own skin. They have nurtured close friendships and each of them is successful in their respective careers. I am so grateful to God for that.

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Seeing these two grow to become the wonderful woman they are now has been my joy!

The Importance of Family

During the court battle for the art, Alana would come to our home and tell us bits and pieces about her grandmother and the long arduous legal proceedings. The movie reignited the emotion and anguish of that process. In contrast to that, I remember so well our happiness the day Alana told us, “We won!”

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To Maria Altmann, it wasn’t about the money. The portrait of her aunt, displayed as Austria’s ‘Mona Lisa,’ was so much more than an expensive piece of art; it was the essence of her family’s memories and legacy. When their art was stolen by the Nazi’s, so were pieces of their history, the love and beauty they once shared together. It is essential to keep your family memories and legacy alive. 

I can say, because I know, Maria Altmann’s granddaughter, Alana, is shining her light and love in this world in marvelous ways.

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Alana and Lindsay during the wedding reception of Alana and Blaine Bisquera

Alana, and Maria’s other grandchildren are living legacies to her growing family and the story continues…

With hope and gratitude,

Linda Eichberg

 

“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” – Job 42:2

 

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4 thoughts on “Woman In Gold – The Untold Story

  1. I read the book ‘ The Lady in Gold’ for book club – it is well worth reading. It goes into more depth and background history of all the Klimt paintings, the Bloch family, the amazing culture of Vienna at the turn of the century and leading up to both World Wars. I think you might really enjoy it.

  2. Just saw the film and loved it! So happy this story was made into a fabulous major motion picture. Raised our kids in Agoura, in fact our son Adam played water polo with Alana! They have commonality in their histories! Strong sense of connection to this family and their journey on many levels. Thanks for sharing your special relationship with them.
    Kim Moskowitz

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