The Lady in Gold

The Lady in Gold

The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

Book - 2012
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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 Constantinop≤ wife of Ferdinand Bauer, sugar-beet baron.
 
The Bloch-Bauers were art patrons, and Adele herself was considered a rebel of fin de si#65533;cle 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.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307265647
0307265641
Characteristics: xviii, 349 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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OlivePlaid
Oct 21, 2015

I enjoyed this book. Until I read it I bought the lie that the Austrians were telling that they were invaded by Nazis and were victims. They welcomed the Nazis, stole artworks, and cover up their complicity even to this day.

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dlh1
Oct 01, 2015

I fully agree with the comments posted by Drayjayeff "poorly crafted sentences sometimes destroy the mood or compromise the intensity. It's a great story, but it isn't told as well as it deserves to be." I saw the movie before reading the book, and had to slog through 3/4 of the book before the story started to resemble the movie. I also believe that the book should have included photos of the artwork that was highlighted, so that the reader didn't have to research elsewhere to fully understand the descriptions.

b
blkrings
Jun 04, 2015

If you liked the movie, The Woman in Gold, you will enjoy this book. Anne Marie O'Connor traces the lives of the Vienna upper class, many of them Jewish, before and after WWII. This includes the story of their problems retrieving their possessions and paintings back from the Austrian government after the war.

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bigreader69
Aug 12, 2014

Title for January 2015

d
Drayjayeff
May 29, 2012

This could have been a great book if it had been written by someone else or if O'Connor had collaborated with a scholar. As other reviewers have mentioned, it's full of ridiculous and easily avoidable errors. Her strength is in the suspenseful and compelling narratives of players who were attempting to flee the Nazis. Even here, though, poorly crafted sentences sometimes destroy the mood or compromise the intensity. It's a great story, but it isn't told as well as it deserves to be.

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