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glittering abstract painted portrait of Jessica Rockwell's Woman in Gold homage The Request for an Homage to “Woman in Gold”

A newly married art collector inquired at my website. He wanted to celebrate and share his elation with a special piece of art. Inspired, he wanted to show his love for his bride in the style of the iconic Abstract Expressionist painting, known as “Woman in Gold,” that Gustav Klimt had created just over a century ago. He told me about the enjoyment he received from his art collection. Included in it were artworks of present-day relatives of historically famous artists. My relation to Norman Rockwell drew him to me. Then he respected my work in its own right.

Realistic Painter Targets Abstract

In accepting this commission, I anticipated a fair amountgold foil for glittering abstract portrait of research and experimentation. It was a fascination for me. Laying gold leaf, for example, has its own tech that has to be done just right. But what a great effect! Also, in this glittering abstract, I found myself painting out different flat patterns of small but different shapes only to get another idea which required letting the oil paint dry and then repainting all of them. Soon I got the bright idea to paint my designs with acrylic paint on a clear acetate overlay. I could cut, recreate portions and move them around somewhat efficiently. Once I decided exactly what to do and where, I could then create my designs in oil on my canvas.

Contrast this with how I paint my realistic portraits. I usually thinly sketch large compositional elements (such as a figure, shadows, foliage, horizon) making them flexible and able to accept over-sketching easily. Once established it is a gradual adding process of more and more detail to achieve realism and excitement.

On the other hand, I was now experiencing the growth of an abstract painted portrait through re-construction. Again, very interesting—the mind procedure of tacking new visual challenges.

The Story of the Original “Woman in Gold”

You might remember that major movie in 2015 about this illustrious painting. Here’s the background:

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian Expressionistic artist knownone of Gustav Klimt's sketches for his famous Austrian Expressionistic "Woman in Gold" for his bohemian lifestyle. He spent most of his time with his art and never married. (However, as the story goes, he fathered 14 children.) It took him 4 years to complete the original “Woman in Gold”—from 1903-07. To begin with, he made over 100 sketches of his subject, Adele Block-Bauer (1881-1925), whose wealthy husband, Ferdinand (1864-1946), commissioned him to paint his young wife. When completed, it went on exhibition a few times and then hung in the Block-Bauer household. In 1912, Mr. Block-Bauer commissioned Klimt to do a second portrait of his wife.

All was well, so to speak, as Gustav Klimt enjoyed 6 more years of fame in his lifetime until his death in 1918. Adele lived until 1925. At first Ferdinand put the two Klimt portraits into her room which he dedicated as a shrine to her. From there he also lent it to a few exibitions.

The next big event was the Nazi seizure of Jewish art collections and lands, including those of our successful Viennese merchant, Ferdinand Block-Bauer, in 1938. After that, he moved around, just out of reach of the Nazis for the next 8 years until his death in 1946 at the age of 82.

The Return of the Stolen Painting

Maria Altman, the niece of the painting’s subject, Adele Block-Bauer, hired lawyers in the late 1990s.  They initiated suits to retrieve their Nazi-confiscated artworks to her family. Court battles for 8 years brought tremendous attention to the painting. The press were thrilled to have the opportunity to exhume historic scandals surrounding the painting from the beginning, particularly concerning Gustav Klimt. This notoriety also spawned a few films and books, even a play.

At last the painting found a stable home when Maria Altman was awarded receipt of it. She said she would honor her aunt’s wishes and seek to situate it for public viewing. To this end, in 2006 she sold it to Ronald Lauder for $135 million, a record price for a painting at the time. Since then, he has maintained it on constant exhibit at his co-founded Neue Gallery in New York.

“Sara: Woman in Gold”

For me, I enjoyed touching on art roots from as far back as 1862 during this project. First I was found because of my legendary cousin. Then I became involved in understanding the provenance of Klimt’s original painting. Then I experienced being the creator of a glittering abstract painted portrait, in Austrian Expressionistic style no less. Lastly, I rendered all of that understanding into a new painting for an art collector for his wife.

When “Sara: Woman in Gold” arrived to its rightful home, my glittering abstract painted portrait of Jessica Rockwell's "Sara: Woman in Gold"client emailed me: “Everyone who sees it says that the painting is amazing. And so do I. You did a wonderful job. Thank you again. There are so many surprises that you have put into it.” Earlier when he just received the email picture of the painting, he had said that it was all that he hoped it would be.

Wouldn’t it be great if I created your portrait or that of your loved one(s)? Call or email me today (!) give me your info/ideas. I’m caring and understanding and I can make a portrait for you that you will love and cherish.

Related Posts from the Portrait Painter:

Glittering Abstract Painted Portrait à la Woman in Gold

When I moved to Clearwater in 1999 I had a wish Classic Painted Portrait of My Mayor and His Wife to make a classic painted portrait of my new city’s mayor (from 1999-2005). That never materialized—until now. 18 years later, his son, Brian Aungst, Jr. contacted me to paint both of his parents!

Having met them at political gatherings as mayor and wife I had an inkling of what a nice portrait I could make. However, it was to be a surprise (which I also love to do). Because of that, we couldn’t photograph them ourselves for my painting references. I had to use scavenged photos from old Christmas cards and family snapshots. That seemed appropriate since it was to be an oil portrait to celebrate their many years together. I wanted to portray them in a timeless way. Youthful, yet wise, so to speak.

When I had finished, Brian Jr. came over to my studio to pick it up. At that time he gave me a wonderful acknowledgment. He said, “I knew it was going to be good, but not this good!”

Then he and his wife presented it to his parents. Afterwards, he called and told me:
“We totally surprised them. We went to their house and set it up in the foyer on an easel with a cloth covering the painting. Then we brought them out. By this time they figured there was a painting there. They were taken aback. It was a very special moment. They were really overwhelmed. They thought it was amazing. It is definitely hanging with pride in their house.”

Then he wrote a testimonial for me to post on Google (but since I can’t seem to do that, I’ll put it here):

“Jessica perfectly captured the love and the life my Mother and Father have shared for more than 40 years.  Our family is incredibly grateful for her talent and her ability to encapsulate their love over the years from when they met in high school, when they served together when my Dad was Mayor, and in their life together as grandparents.  Her portrait preserves the essence of their wonderful life and their great love for eternity and we cannot thank her enough.”

Here is a terrific article about Brian and Karen Aungst, “Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater”:


So now you can see how the granting of my first wish became so much better than I ever imagined. What a team my mayor and his wife make! And then to be called on to supply a classic painted portrait honoring the both of them together—what a pleasure!

Be sure to let me know when you want an oil portrait painted of someone in your family!

Related posts from the portrait painter:

classic painted portrait invitation

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was more than just a very popular painter and illustrator for a good half of the 20th century. He also accomplished, throughout all of his work, what I think artists (even a portrait painter) are supposed to do. [click to continue…]

Here is a mother and children oil portrait in a short video, fairy-tale style.

As you might imagine, this oil portrait of a mother and her three children has a special story. I want to tell it to you in some detail. You’ll see the mother’s written words (which she graciously allowed me to share):

It began with an email that she wrote me. “I’ve looked through your website and all of your lovely portraits and talent. I don’t know how I started looking but my husband’s 40th birthday is coming up and I wanted to do something special for him. I have photographed our family since my little ones were born. Now my daughter is 7 and my twin boys are 10. Very rarely have I been in any photographs alone or with them.  I thought I would like to pursue this idea of a beautiful posed but editorial-looking moment that has a classic look – not extremely modern – of my children with me for him.  I would love to speak with you about this and talk about different ideas.  It feels strange to put me in the art. Perhaps just the children are better but there really isn’t much of me that exists with them.  I would love to take the second step and speak with you about this portrait.”  [click to continue…]

Twins Oil Portraits are such a happy subject to make a video about. Photography sessions with them are uniquely fun. When you look at the video, you’ll see what I mean. It’s a special thing. No wonder parents love to capture that beautiful shared youth in oil paintings. I’ve had the pleasure to paint at least 11 sets of twins so far. (I keep having the feeling there are more that have been overlooked in the hundreds of portraits I have painted.) [click to continue…]

This is the third in the series of videos that show several portraits in the same category. This one is about women’s oil portraits.

One characteristic that each of these women have is that they are mothers. All added up, they have 16 children among them. For most, I painted their children first with separate paintings for each child so they could inherit individual portraits. Then the mothers went ahead and got portraits to reflect their own personalities. [click to continue…]

This is the second in my series of videos showing several portraits that have a relation to each other. This one is about brother sister oil portraits.

From the most casual to very dressy, they record the love of siblings in the grandest of style. Two of them came from photos that the parents had made themselves. They loved the photos so much that they wanted to make them into even more meaningful memories. When they crossed paths with me, both of the families poured out their delight in meeting someone who might be able to give them just what they had dreamed about. I couldn’t help but understand when I saw their photos. [click to continue…]

I decided to make a series of short videos for YouTube showing my portraits in related groups. I could tell something about them and show how they are related. For instance, here the grandparents started an oil portrait tradition with all the oil portraits of cousins. They had 2 sons with wives and ended up with 6 grandchildren. [click to continue…]

an example of what kind of photo you want to get your photos to painted portraits

The reference photo for the oil portrait of Alexis was taken on a sunny day

Here are 4 ways on “how to get your photos to painted portraits” for people who want all the photography details. If you are not that kind of a person, however, don’t worry. Just contact me and I can personally direct you to use your photos to the best advantage.

1. Photos that you already have

When you have a favorite photo that you want painted into a prized oil portrait the best way to give me the highest quality is to send me a hi-resolution (“hi-res”) image. That means that it has a lot of megabytes (mb) so I can enlarge it to see as much detail as I want without it turning into an abstract display of [click to continue…]

Realistic portrait artist makes self-portrait in 1991

This is a self-portrait made in 1991.

When I was learning to draw and paint I used to read biographies of artists that I admired. Looking back on this, I believe that time spent on this was as effective in getting me to my artistic goal of being a realistic portrait painter as time spent making pictures.

Learning about the lives of favorite artists made me realize that my life was just as ordinary (in its own very exceptional way of course) and acceptable as theirs were. There was nothing about my life that would make it difficult for me to pursue an artistic goal. In fact, though I often thought life was terribly difficult, I actually had had [click to continue…]