The Story of How a 1907 Painting by Klimt Just Sold for a Record $135 Million



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English. I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question about dams in the United States ...

Play some music from the Dixie Chicks ...

And report about the record-setting sale of a famous painting.

Klimt Painting

A famous painting called "Adele Block-Bauer One" was recently sold to a museum in New York City. The head of the museum reportedly paid one hundred thirty-five million dollars for the painting. This would be the highest price ever paid for a painting. However, this big price is not the only reason the painting is special. Mario Ritter tells us more about the complex, unusual history of this beautiful painting.


One hundred years ago, Adele Bloch-Bauer was a young woman living in Austria. She was smart, beautiful and rich. Her husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, loved her very much. He asked the famous artist Gustav Klimt to paint her portrait in nineteen-oh-seven.

Mister Klimt painted a wonderful portrait. The woman in his painting looks mysterious and beautiful. The background of the painting is a rich gold. Many experts said the painting looks like pictures painted by Egyptian artists thousands of years ago. Klimt had created four other paintings for the Bloch-Bauer family. Adele Bloch-Bauer died in nineteen twenty-five.

In nineteen thirty-eight, the Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler invaded Austria. Because he was Jewish, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer quickly fled to Switzerland. He wrote that the Klimt paintings should be given to the surviving members of his family. It was too late, however. The Nazis had already seized all the family's property, including the valuable paintings.

Maria Altmann is a member of the Bloch-Bauer family who escaped from Austria. She lives in Los Angeles, California. In nineteen-ninety eight, the Austrian government passed a law about works of art stolen by the Nazis. The law requires museums to return such art works to the families that owned them before World War Two. So Maria Altmann went to court to gain back her family's paintings.

The legal arguments lasted for seven years. In January, a group of experts in Vienna decided that the paintings should be returned to Missus Altmann and her family.

Last month, the family sold the painting "Adele Bloch-Bauer One" to Ronald Lauder and others. Mister Lauder is the founder and president of the Neue Galerie, a small museum of Austrian and German art in New York.

Maria Altmann said she wanted to make sure the public could always see her family's famous paintings. All five Klimt paintings will be shown at the Neue Galerie for two months, starting next week.

Dams in U.S.


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Vietnam. Misan Ho wants to know the purpose of dams and which is the biggest dam in the United States. The purpose of all dams is to reduce or prevent flooding by controlling the water in a river.

The United States Society on Dams lists many reasons why dams are important. It says they provide clean water to drink. They also provide water for industry and farming. They create lakes for fishing and other kinds of fun activities. Dams also provide water to produce hydroelectric power.

Naming the biggest dam in the United States is not easy. Is it the tallest dam? The one that contains the most concrete material? Or the one that produces the most electricity?

If you ask an American to name the most famous dam in the country, he or she would probably say Hoover Dam. It is on the Colorado River near Las Vegas, Nevada. Hoover Dam was the tallest dam in the world when it was finished in nineteen thirty-six. Until nineteen forty-eight, it was also the largest producer of hydroelectric power.

But this is no longer true. The United States Society on Dams says the highest dam in the United States is the one on the Feather River near Oroville, California. The Oroville Dam is two hundred thirty-five meters high. It was completed in nineteen sixty-eight to provide electric power, drinking water and water for agriculture in central and southern California.

The dam that produces the most hydroelectric power in the United States is the Grand Coulee Dam in the state of Washington. It controls flooding on the Columbia River and is said to be the largest single producer of electricity in the country. It is the main source of electric power to the northwestern states. The Grand Coulee Dam was completed in nineteen forty-two. It is one of the largest concrete structures in the world.

Hoover Dam is still at the top of the list of dams in one way. The building of the dam created Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in America. People use Lake Mead for boating, swimming and other activities that would not be possible in that desert area.

Dixie Chicks' New Album

The Dixie Chicks used to be known as the biggest-selling female group in music history. Now they are known as one of the most disputed. These three women are making a lot of noise with their new album "Taking the Long Way." Katherine Cole has more.


In two thousand three, Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, was in the news. During a concert in London, she criticized President Bush for his political actions. She spoke less than two weeks before the invasion of Iraq. The Chicks did not realize the effect of those words. They soon lost fans. They even received death threats. The comment changed the direction of their lives, music, and beliefs.


That was "The Long Way Around" by the Dixie Chicks -- Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison. The song shows their new musical direction. It is about acting and thinking freely. Maines openly sings about criticizing the president. She says she learned about herself by expressing her beliefs.

The song also represents the Chicks' new musical style. In the past, they only sang songs influenced by country music. They did not always write their own music. Now, they are adding the sound of rock to their song collection. And they wrote every song on the album.

Here is "Lullaby". This calming song is about loving someone forever.


"Taking the Long Way" quickly became the top-selling album in the country when it was released at the end of May. But many country music radio stations will not play music by the Dixie Chicks. Many people in the country music industry now oppose the band for criticizing the president.

We leave you with "Not Ready to Make Nice." The Dixie Chicks express the importance of standing firmly and bravely for what you believe -- no matter what people may think or say.



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Our show was written by Dana Demange, Sarah Randle and Nancy Stienbach. Mario Ritter was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, WWW.51VOA.COM.

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