PORTRAIT OF WALLY, Egon Schiele’s tender picture of his mistress, Walburga (Wally) Newzil, is the pride of the Leopold Museum in Vienna. But for 13 years the painting was locked up in New York, caught in a legal battle between the Austrian museum and the Jewish family from whom the Nazis seized the painting in 1939.
The documentary traces the history of this iconic image-from Schiele’s gesture of affection toward his lover, to the theft of the painting from Lea Bondi, a Jewish art dealer fleeing for her life, to the resurfacing of “Wally” on loan to the Museum of Modern Art in 1997.
The heirs of art dealer Lea Bondi asked MoMA to hold the the painting. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau issued a subpoena and launched a crinimal investigation. A 13-year court battle followed, tracking the course of a Holocaust property crime-all at a time when the prices of Rgon Schiele’s works rose faster than those of any painter.
The “Wally” case brought the story of Nazi art loot into the open, eventually forcing museums in Europe and the U.S. to search their own collections. Many museums ended up returning art to those who had abandoned hope until “Wally” showed that institutions could be held accountable.
The Port Jefferson Documentary Series, sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson and Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, brings directors, stars, or experts for each film into the theater for an up-close and personal question and answer session. The guest speaker for this film will be Fred Gross from the Holocaust Memorial Tolerance Center. This film is distributed by 7th Art Releasing and presented in cooperation with GALLERY NORTH.