…a fascinating work, ambitious, exhaustively researched and profligately detailed…But the book's title does not do justice to O'Connor's scope, which includes the Viennese Belle Epoque, the Anschluss, the diaspora of Viennese Jews, the looting of their artwork and legal battles over its restitution, and thorny questions facing the heirs of reclaimed art…O'Connor's book is a mesmerizing tale of art and the Holocaust, encased in a profusion of beguiling detail, much as Adele herself is encrusted in Klimt's resplendent portrait.
The Washington Post
One of Gustav Klimt’s most celebrated paintings (sold to Ronald Lauder for a record million in 2006 and now in the Neue Galerie in New York City, encapsulates a fascinating, complicated cultural history of fin-de-siècle Vienna, its Jewish intelligentsia, and their near complete destruction by the Nazis. Washington Post journalist O’Connor traces the multifaceted history of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907) in this intriguing, energetically composed, but overly episodic study of Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, and her niece, Maria Bloch-Bauer who reclaimed five Klimt paintings stolen by the Nazis and was extensively interviewed by O’Connor. According to Maria, Adele was “a modern woman, living in the world of yesterday.” The book’s first and strongest section vividly evokes the intellectually precocious and ambitious Adele’s rich cultural and social milieu in Vienna, and how she became entwined with the charismatic, sexually charged, and irreverent Klimt, who may have been Adele’s lover before and also during her marriage. During WWII, Adele’s portrait was renamed by the Nazis as the Dame in Gold to erase her Jewish identity. O’Connor’s final arguments about the tragic yet redemptive symbolism of Adele’s portrait are poignant and convincing: while it represents the failure of the dream of Jews like Adele to assimilate, through the painting she achieves “her dream of immortality.” 54 photos. Agent: Steve Wasserman, Kneerim and Williams. (Feb.)
Fascinating. . . . A mesmerizing tale of art and the Holocaust.” —The Washington Post
“A celebration of art and persistence. . . . O’Connor’s book brings Klimt’s exceptional portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer home, broadening the meaning of homeland at the same time.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Ms. O’Connor has told an important story.” —The Wall Street Journal
“O’Connor skillfully filters Austria’s troubled twentieth century through the life of Klimt’s most beloved muse. . . . A nuanced view of a painting whose story transcends its own time.” —Bookforum
“Captivating.” —MORE Magazine
“Combines detailed reportage with passionate storytelling. . . . Unraveling the portrait’s journey also reveals how global norms of art and war have changed, and the powerful roles that art plays in politics, society, identity and memory.” —The Rumpus
“A fascinating book.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Richly drawn. . . . Part history and part mystery, The Lady in Gold is a striking tale.” —BookPage
“The lusciously detailed story of Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, detailing the relationship between the artist, the subject, their heirs and those who coveted the masterpiece. . . . Art-history fans will love the deep details of the painting, and history buffs will revel in the facts O’Connor includes as she exposes a deeper picture of World War II.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Intriguing. . . . Poignant and convincing. . . . Vividly evokes the intellectually precocious and ambitious Adele’s rich cultural and social milieu in Vienna, and how she became entwined with the charismatic, sexually charged, and irreverent Klimt.” —Publishers Weekly
“Writing with a novelist’s dynamism, O’Connor resurrects fascinating individuals and tells a many-faceted, intensely affecting, and profoundly revelatory tale of the inciting power of art and the unending need for justice.” —Booklist (starred review)
This epic story of a painting begins in the late 19th century, as Gustav Klimt becomes the premier painter of the Vienna Secession and Adele Bloch-Bauer, a renowned salon hostess and patron of the arts, and ends at the beginning of the 21st century, as his portrait of her is auctioned for a record-breaking $135 million. In between, the painting is seized by Nazis, renamed to hide its Jewish subject, held by Austria for decades, and finally won back by Bloch-Bauer’s heirs in an agonizing legal battle. (LJ 3/1/12)—Molly McArdle
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The lusciously detailed story of Gustav Klimt's most famous painting, detailing the relationship between the artist, the subject, their heirs and those who coveted the masterpiece. Family letters, which remarkably survived the war, support the biography of Klimt and Bloch-Bauer, and the Nazi regime's precise records contribute to their story as they gathered up all of Europe's art collections. Washington Post writer O'Connor then deals with their heirs' fight with Austria to restore their property. Klimt was born a catholic in 1862 in Vienna, a city in which the Hapsburgs courted highly successful Jews to finance their railroads. Those Jews easily intermarried with the established families of the empire. Even though 10 percent of Vienna was Jewish, only a very few were sufficiently wealthy to be considered part of the "second society" of freshly minted aristocrats and industrialists. The poorer Jews continued as victims especially as Vienna became the birthplace of anti-Semitism as a main political force. Klimt and his brother, Ernst, were sons of a gold engraver who established themselves early in life as painters of frescoes and architectural decorations. Ernst's premature death caused Gustav to turn away from their success and devote himself to art. Klimt and his friends closely followed the trials of the French Impressionists and imitated their rejection of the established art world with their own "Secession," exhibiting their "art of the soul." From the time it was painted, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer caused a sensation, and Klimt and Bloch-Bauer delighted in it. O'Connor's thorough research comes fully into the light in the second part of the book as she traces the "ownership" of this painting and the inestimable number of artworks that were absorbed as Hitler planned his museum in Linz. Finally, the tenacity with which descendants of those robbed by the Nazis is exemplified by the work of Randol Schoenberg, who tirelessly strove to assure the return of the Lady in Gold. Art-history fans will love the deep details of the painting, and history buffs will revel in the facts O'Connor includes as she exposes a deeper picture of World War II.