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The lady in gold : the extraordinary tale of Gustav Klimt's masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
2012
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
Arts
Topics
Portrait paintings
Painters
Artists
Artists' models
World War II
Setting
- Europe
Time Period
1907 -- 20th century
1986-1918 -- 19th-20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

This is an extraordinary biography, not merely of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the subject of one of Gustav Klimt's most famous paintings, but also of the work itself and the world of early 20th-century Vienna. The painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) was famous before its record--breaking purchase in 2006 at $135 million by Ronald S. Lauder for his New York-based Neue Galerie. Through her painstaking research, O'Connor (Washington Post) manages to capture the cultural, historical, and political climate that gave birth to this painting. She describes the anti-Semitism that permeated early 20th--century Vienna and the role that Jews played (often as outsiders) in that society. Stolen by the Nazis during World War II and renamed The Lady in Gold (to avoid any hint that its subject was Jewish), the painting was at the center of an eight-year battle by Bloch-Bauer's niece Maria Altmann to regain her family's legacy. -VERDICT Although the narrative is somewhat episodic, the history is fascinating. This is an essential title for readers interested in art history, European history, and Judaic studies. Highly recommended.-Herbert E. Shapiro, Lifelong Learning Soc., Florida Atlantic Univ., Boca Raton (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

One of Gustav Klimt's most celebrated paintings (sold to Ronald Lauder for a record $135 million in 2006 and now in the Neue Galerie in New York City, encapsulates a fascinating, complicated cultural history of fin-de-siecle Vienna, its Jewish intelligentsia, and their near complete destruction by the Nazis. Washington Post journalist O'Connor traces the multifaceted history of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907) in this intriguing, energetically composed, but overly episodic study of Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, and her niece, Maria Bloch-Bauer who reclaimed five Klimt paintings stolen by the Nazis and was extensively interviewed by O'Connor. According to Maria, Adele was "a modern woman, living in the world of yesterday." The book's first and strongest section vividly evokes the intellectually precocious and ambitious Adele's rich cultural and social milieu in Vienna, and how she became entwined with the charismatic, sexually charged, and irreverent Klimt, who may have been Adele's lover before and also during her marriage. During WWII, Adele's portrait was renamed by the Nazis as the Dame in Gold to erase her Jewish identity. O'Connor's final arguments about the tragic yet redemptive symbolism of Adele's portrait are poignant and convincing: while it represents the failure of the dream of Jews like Adele to assimilate, through the painting she achieves "her dream of immortality." 54 photos. Agent: Steve Wasserman, Kneerim and Williams. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
The spellbinding story, part fairy tale, part suspense, of Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer , one of the most emblematic portraits of its time; of the beautiful, seductive Viennese Jewish salon hostess who sat for it; the notorious artist who painted it; the now vanished turn-of-the-century Vienna that shaped it; and the strange twisted fate that befell it.<br> nbsp; <br> The Lady in Gold, considered an unforgettable masterpiece, one of the twentieth century's most recognizable paintings, made headlines all over the world when Ronald Lauder bought it for $135 million a century after Klimt, the most famous Austrian painter of his time, completed the society portrait.<br> nbsp;<br> Anne-Marie O'Connor, writer for The Washington Post , formerly of the Los Angeles Times, tells the galvanizing story of the Lady in Gold, Adele Bloch-Bauer, a dazzling Viennese Jewish society figure; daughter of the head of one of the largest banks in the Hapsburg Empire, head of the Oriental Railway, whose Orient Express went from Berlin to Constantinople; wife of Ferdinand Bauer, sugar-beet baron.<br> nbsp;<br> The Bloch-Bauers were art patrons, and Adele herself was considered a rebel of fin de siècle Vienna (she wanted to be educated, a notion considered "degenerate" in a society that believed women being out in the world went against their feminine "nature"). The author describes how Adele inspired the portrait and how Klimt made more than a hundred sketches of her--simple pencil drawings on thin manila paper.<br> nbsp;<br> And O'Connor writes of Klimt himself, son of a failed gold engraver, shunned by arts bureaucrats, called an artistic heretic in his time, a genius in ours.<br> nbsp;<br> She writes of the Nazis confiscating the portrait of Adele from the Bloch-Bauers' grand palais; of the Austrian government putting the painting on display, stripping Adele's Jewish surname from it so that no clues to her identity (nor any hint of her Jewish origins) would be revealed. Nazi officials called the painting, The Lady in Gold and proudly exhibited it in Vienna's Baroque Belvedere Palace, consecrated in the 1930s as a Nazi institution.<br> nbsp;<br> The author writes of the painting, inspired by the Byzantine mosaics Klimt had studied in Italy, with their exotic symbols and swirls, the subject an idol in a golden shrine.<br> nbsp;<br> We see how, sixty years after it was stolen by the Nazis, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer became the subject of a decade-long litigation between the Austrian government and the Bloch-Bauer heirs, how and why the U.S. Supreme Court became involved in the case, and how the Court's decision had profound ramifications in the art world.<br> nbsp;<br> A riveting social history; an illuminating and haunting look at turn-of-the-century Vienna; a brilliant portrait of the evolution of a painter; a masterfully told tale of suspense. And at the heart of it, the Lady in Gold--the shimmering painting, and its equally irresistible subject, the fate of each forever intertwined.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. xi
Prologuep. xiii
Part 1Emancipation
Adele's Vienna: Poems and Privilegep. 3
The Kingp. 7
Emancipated Immigrantsp. 10
The Wounded Creatorp. 13
Arranged Marriagep. 17
The Secessionp. 23
Klimt the Seducerp. 26
An Innocent Abroadp. 30
"I Want to Get Out"p. 35
Adele's "Bohemian Home"p. 41
The Empressp. 45
"Degenerate Women"p. 46
Eyes Wide Shutp. 50
The Outsiderp. 55
The Painted Mosaicp. 58
KlimtÆs Womenp. 61
"Hugs from Your Buddha"p. 66
The Good Spiritp. 69
Part 2Love and Betrayal
Degenerate Artp. 75
"You Are Peace"p. 77
Unrequited Lovep. 81
Marie Viktoriap. 84
Maria and Luisep. 88
Stubenbasteip. 95
The Housepainter from Austriap. 99
With or Without Youp. 100
The Return of the Nativep. 106
Love Letters from a Bridep. 114
Work Makes Freedomp. 122
Thunder at Twilightp. 128
Decent Honorable Peoplep. 134
Gay Marriagep. 137
The Orient Expressp. 137
The Autograph Hunterp. 139
Stealing Beautyp. 142
The Last of the Bloch-Bauersp. 146
Homecomingp. 147
Führerp. 150
Nazis in the Familyp. 152
"Above the Mob"p. 155
The Viennese Cassandrap. 160
Ferdinand in Exilep. 163
The Gutmannsp. 164
The "Blonde Beast"p. 168
Love Letters from a Murdererp. 172
Ferdinand's Legacyp. 175
The Uses of Artp. 176
Nellyp. 179
The Immendorf Castlep. 183
The Child in the Chapelp. 185
The Castle of the First Reichsmarschallp. 187
The Partisansp. 190
The Man Without Qualitiesp. 192
The Nero Decreep. 193
Restitutionp. 198
Liberationp. 199
Refugeep. 205
Provenancep. 208
Part 3Atonement
Historical Amnesiap. 213
The Children of Tantalusp. 220
The Heirs of Historyp. 225
The Library of Theftp. 228
The Search for Provenancep. 230
"I Can't Afford for You to Lose"p. 235
How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?p. 236
Klimt's Stolen Womenp. 237
A Lost Cause Celebrep. 239
Diplomacyp. 241
Family Historyp. 243
Supreme Judgmentp. 246
Arbitrationp. 250
Ciao Adelep. 254
A Friend from Old Viennap. 256
Patrimonyp. 261
Adele's Final Destinyp. 268
The Burden of Historyp. 272
Art Historyp. 276
Cultural Propertyp. 285
A Reckoningp. 289
Acknowledgmentsp. 297
Notesp. 299
Selected Bibliographyp. 333
Indexp. 339
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