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"Portrait of Wally", Egon Schieles tender picture of his mistress, Walburga (Wally) Neuzil, 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. PORTRAIT OF WALLY traces the history of this iconic image from Schieles' gesture of affection toward his young lover, to the theft of the painting from Lea Bondi, a Jewish art dealer fleeing Vienna for her life, to the post-war confusion and subterfuge that evoke THE THIRD MAN, to the surprise resurfacing of Wally on loan to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan in 1997. 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 for suspect objects. Many museums ended up returning art to Jewish families who had abandoned hope until Wally showed that institutions could be held accountable for holding property stolen during the Holocaust.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 30
- Fresh: 27
- Rotten: 3
- Average Rating: 7.2/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: A key chapter in the post-Nazi history of 20th-century art ownership gets an indignant retelling in Andrew Shea's polished talking-head documentary.
Fresh: Turning over rocks in and around the New York art world, helmer Andrew Shea finds a lot of ugly stuff while chronicling what amounts to a 60-year hostage drama centered around the Egon Schiele oil painting that gives the film its title.
Fresh: By showing how difficult and problematic righting a wrong can turn out to be, "Portrait of Wally" does itself proud.
Fresh: Involving account of legal wrangling over a stolen Egon Schiele painting.