I was recently given a new book on the artist Gustav Klimt, “The Lady in Gold” by Anne-Marie O’Conner. This book is a wonderfully written tale of suspense. O’Connor divides this book between art patron, Adele Bloch-Bauer, the artist Gustav Klimt and his unforgettable masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
O’Connor introduces us to Adele Bloch-Bauer, a dazzling Jewish society figure that doesn’t quite fit in. As her niece Maria Altermann notes “Adele was a modern woman, living in the world of yesterday.” O’Connor dives into the Bloch-Bauer family and this support of the artist Gustav Klimt. With O’Connor’s help we discover that the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, took three years to paint, was inspired by the Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna and that Adele was the only model to sit twice for Gustav Klimt.
But what I found most exciting was the history of the painting itself. After Adele’s death, her husband’s is forced to flee to Switzerland,and the painting is confiscated by the Nazis. The portrait is stripped of its title, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, by the Nazis and renamed The Lady in Gold. The intrigue continues after the Second World War, when the painting is at the middle of a decade long court battle between the Austrian government and the Bloch-Bauer heirs. O’Connor follows the paintings fate, from its sale at Christie’s to its final home at the Neue Galerie in New York.
While I am usually a fiction reader, this well researched and written story captured my attention and kept me reading. If you would like to know more about Gustav Klimt, here are a few other books in the Library’s collection.