Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the Collection of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Special exhibition at the Neue Galerie, extended through October 9.

No matter how many times I experience it, the dramatic difference between viewing a familiar painting in a book or on a computer screen and viewing it in person still startles me. Fixed images give you the illusion of having experienced a painting, but they don’t really show you how large or small the painting is or how the brushwork looks in three dimensions or how vibrant the colors are or how the painting changes when viewed from different angles. Being in the presence of a painting touches you in a way that simply seeing it cannot. I have to relearn that lesson every time I visit a museum, and this time I relearned it at the Neue Galerie.

I’d seen Gustav Klimt’s first portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer countless times alongside the numerous articles about its acquisition by the Neue Galerie, but the painting surprised me nonetheless. Photographs don’t do it justice. In person, the luster of the gold and silver and the bold accents of red and blue and green make it look almost mystical, like a religious icon.