“The lawyer was Randol Schoenberg, the grandson of a venerated Viennese composer who had fled the rise of Hitler. The return of this ominous heir was anything but welcome. The painting Schoenberg sought was a shimmering gold masterpiece, painted a century earlier, by the artistic heretic Gustav Klimt. It was a portrait of a Viennese society beauty, Adele Bloch-Bauer.”
Anne-Marie O’Connor, The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Bloch-Bauer
“The Lady in Gold” is a brilliant testament to why I have chosen to read non-fiction. Anne-Marie O’Connor transported me to the glittering world of the Viennese Belle Époque, the beautiful era which began in the 1870’s and ended at the beginning of WWI. There I met Gustav Klimt and other brilliant artists, musicians and writers who embodied the Secession motto: “Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit.” (“To every age its art. To every art its freedom.”) This was the world of Adele Bloch-Bauer, The Lady in Gold.
Anne-Marie O’Connor is a masterful storyteller. She weaves personal narratives against the backdrop of a fragile world of unimaginable wealth, political upheaval and a monarchy in transition. The greatest story centers on the 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. It was a three-year labor of love, commissioned by Adele’s husband, Ferdinand Block-Bauer. What was meant to adorn the wall of an elegant family home, was coveted by others who recognized the genius behind “The Lady in Gold”
The Lady in Gold holds the memorable stories of many who desired its beauty. It is a reminder of the vulnerability of life, the unforeseen circumstances that intrude into our seemingly impenetrable, carefully constructed worlds. The enigmatic Klimt and the beautiful Adele may have passed into history, but their lives are enshrined in a painting that endures.