Adele Bloch-Bauer

The Lady in Gold

Adele Bloch-Bauer

Adele Bloch-Bauer

“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.

William Shakespeare

Sigh No More, Ladies

William Shakespeare

He may have died 400 years ago, today on April 23, 1616, but his advice remains fresh and relevant.  One of my favourite passages is Sigh No More Ladies from “Much Ado About Nothing” which reminds us that our lives are not meant for melancholy, but for living with joyous abandonment.    William Shakespeare’s notion that blame falls to men’s nature as “deceivers ever” – well, I will leave that to you to decide.  In the meantime, here is my tribute to William Shakespeare:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
          Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
          To one thing constant never.
               Then sigh not so,
               But let them go,
          And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
          Into ‘hey nonny, nonny’.

Sing no more ditties, sing no more,
          Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
          Since summer first was leavy.
               Then sigh not so,
               But let them go
          And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
          Into ‘hey nonny, nonny’.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Shakespeare on Goodreads

Holy Trinity Church - The Place of baptism and burial of William Shakepeare

Holy Trinity Church – The place of baptism and burial of William Shakespeare

There is a lot that has been said about William Shakespeare.  Everyone has an opinion on who he was, who he was not, what he wrote etc.   The debate goes on, even after 400 years of his passing in 1616.  Therein lies the true brilliance of literature – the compelling force to continue the conversation.

Goodreads is celebrating Shakespeare Week (August 18 – 23, 2016), which includes quizzes, book lists and an invitation to write a “deleted scene” from one of the Bard’s plays. Shakespeare would be pleased, no doubt.

I first met Shakespeare when I read Macbeth and confess that I had a partiality to the unfortunate Lady Macbeth.

“But screw your courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Then came The Taming of the Shrew (wasn’t Elizabeth Taylor magnificent):

“Sit by my side, and let the world slip: we shall ne’er be younger.” 
William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew

Followed thereafter by Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Twelve Night, King Lear, Julius Caesar, and Henry V:

“We few. We happy few.
We band of brothers, for he today
That sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.”

William Shakespeare, Henry V

Peter Ackroyd’s, Shakespeare, the Biography brought it all together for me.  This is not an easy read, by any stretch of the imagination, but after all, he is writing about William Shakespeare.  My husband, my son and I listened to the audio-book version while driving in the car, which allowed us to integrate knowledge incrementally.  We were taken back to the sixteen century and imagined that we were part of the audience.  Even more exciting, we followed William from his childhood to his final night, when he met with friends for the last celebration before the curtain closed on a life well-lived.

This last quote is one that I embrace as I move forward in my timeline…

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice