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The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of…

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece,… (2012)

by Anne-Marie O'Connor

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The basis for Helen Mirren vehicle Woman in Gold, this book recounts the story of Gustav Klimt’s renowned portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, stolen by the Nazis who obscured Adele’s Jewish identity. Decades later, Adele’s niece Maria filed a lawsuit to get that and other paintings returned to the family.

It is an important story that to me lost some of its energy in the telling. The story of pre-war Austria, with its intellectual and artistic energy and an influential, highly assimilated Jewish community was usually compelling, but it seemed as if the narrative jumped around just a bit to too much. I told a friend that it seemed “fractured,” and maybe that was an artistic choice, or maybe it’s just my mind that’s fractured. ( )
  CasualFriday | Jun 16, 2017 |
A book about a remarkable painter and the lives and persistence of his works. About Austria and, more particularly, about Vienna. About Nazis and about Anschluss. About government seizures, theft, appropriations, reparations, guilt, justice, even family conflicts. Denial. Anti-semitism. About shuffling around unpleasant facts, events, realities.

Gustav Klimt was an artist with an eye for beauty and the skill to capture a unique impression of it on canvas. He lived in Vienna, Austria from the late 1800s until his death in 1918. Some of his work was regarded as pornographic, yet (or, perhaps, thus) he attracted many lady admirers, among them wealthy art lovers. One of them, Adele Bloch-Bauer, was the subject of the pivotal Klimt painting in this tale. When completed in 1907, it was hung in the Bloch-Bauer mansion. Adele died in 1925, leaving an expression of her wish that her husband, Ferdinand, would donate the portrait and five other Klimt paintings, which he owned, to the Austrian State Gallery upon his death.

Anschluss derailed the Bloch-Bauers and every other Jewish family in Vienna; almost overnight, they had everything taken from them—cars, homes, country estates, jewelry and artworks, businesses, their houses of worship, their standing and respect in the community. SS men spirited away all the artworks. The railroad took over the house, converting it into office space. Adele's niece, Maria, had just returned from her honeymoon with Fritz Altmann, her husband of ten days, who was arrested. Fritz's elder brother Bernhard, Europe's largest knitwear manufacturer, was maneuvering to keep company stock out of German hands; dangling his assets before the Nazis, he negotiated Fritz's release and helped Fritz and Maria escape to Britain. Other family members confronted worse ordeals.

When the war ended, survivors tried to get their property back, but the Austrian government was loathe to part with it. Ultimately, Maria survived when few other family members did and she became principal heir to Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer's estate. Represented by Randol Schoenberg, grandson of exiled Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, Maria pressed her case. Seemingly thwarted by Austrian stalling, Schoenberg took the case to U.S. courts, where the case was decided—by the U. S. Supreme Court—in the heirs' favor. You have to read it to believe it.
  weird_O | Jun 12, 2017 |
If you enjoy art history or would enjoy WWII European History, you'll enjoy The Lady in Gold. My memory of learning about Gustav Klimt as a freshman in college was that he was a this jerk who lived a dissipated life, dying an early death. His overall contribution to Modern Art was not as significant as other artists at the same time, and we only briefly considered his work.

This book changed my viewpoint on Klimt's work. I thought it was interesting that he got his inspiration for his later paintings after a visit to Ravenna where he saw the Byzantine mosaics of Empress Theodora and that influenced his painting of Adele. I've never seen this painting, but I imagine it is amazing as it is personal.

Behind every portrait is a real person, and the stories of the people surrounding Klimt are as rich and complex as the gold leaf woven into his paintings. There is a dark side to his work that represents a civilized society that only a short time later after his death was welcoming the Third Reich with open arms. It is incredible that not only were Jewish families plundered of all their assets practically overnight, but that the Austrian government held on to stolen art over 60 years later with little apology. Anne-Marie O'Conner does an incredible job bringing us the drama of how these paintings ended up back with their rightful owners.

( )
  kerchie1 | Jun 9, 2017 |
An interesting history about Austrian art and Austrian society before and after World War II. A lot of facts about Gustav Klimt, who died in relative obscurity but whose art commanded more than any artist when it was sold at auction in the US. This book delves into art stolen by Nazi's, traded or destroyed by Nazi's and focuses on a particular group of paintings by Gustav Klimt. It is quite a story...and all absolutely true. ( )
  Hanneri | Apr 21, 2017 |
The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

by Anne-Marie O'Connor

The story of Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer (the Jewish Viennese society figure) and the history of
the painting

9 audio discs


I thought I would find an interesting turn of the century tale of an artist and his muse.

Instead, it was a compelling social history beginning at the turn of the century Vienna.
It was an exploration of the culture, introducing the reader to the anti-Semitism that permeated the era.
Exploration of the historical and political climate are essential to understanding the trail of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.

It began as a "glamorous era, peopled by Sigmund Freud, Marlene Dietrich, Hedy Lamar, and Billy Wilder.... An era that had ended with the arrival of Hitler."

We follow the massive theft of art in Europe by the German (Nazi) Government during World War II.
This particular portrait was stolen by the Nazis during World War II and renamed The Lady in Gold (to avoid any hint that its subject was Jewish)
They proudly exhibited it in Vienna's Baroque Belvedere Palace, consecrated in the 1930s as a Nazi institution.

The Lady In Gold was finally returned to Bloch-Bauer's heirs in the 21st century.

The years leading to the 21st century are intense, multifaceted and illuminating to the reader.
I finished the nonfiction feeling somewhat haunted and definitely pleased I had chosen to investigate this particular pocket of history..

....a vivid narrative...historically rich in detail...
(less) ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 31, 2016 |
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Stolen by Nazis
Incandescent, glowing gold
Adele, holding court

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307265641, Hardcover)

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Shares the events that shaped the creation of the painter's most famous portrait, covering such topics as the story of the salon hostess who was his model, contributing factors in turn-of-the-century Vienna, and the painting's fate.

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