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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Maria Altmann dies at 94; won fight for return of Klimt portrait seized by Nazis

Maria Altmann, with son Peter, holds a print of "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer." Maria Altmann, with son Peter, holds a print of "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer." Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/January 21,2006

Maria Altmann, who escaped Nazi-occupied Vienna as a newlywed and returned to wage a triumphant fight to recover Gustav Klimt's iconic gold portrait of her remarkable aunt, has died. She was 94.

Altmann died Monday at her Cheviot Hills home after a long illness, said family friend E. Randol Schoenberg.

Altmann was an 82-year-old grandmother living in Cheviot Hills in 1998 when she enlisted Schoenberg, an attorney who was the son of a friend, to investigate the Nazi theft of her Jewish family's Klimt collection. The collection included Klimt's famous "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer," hanging in the Austrian National Gallery.

The seemingly unwinnable battle took Altmann and Schoenberg to the U.S. Supreme Court — which ruled that the case could go forward. An Austrian mediation panel ultimately awarded Altmann and four other heirs the five Klimt paintings in January 2006.

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