The Lady in Gold
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 Constantinople; wife of Ferdinand Bauer, sugar-beet baron.
The Bloch-Bauers were art patrons, and Adele herself was considered a rebel of fin de siècle 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.
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.
“Fascinating, ambitious, exhaustively researched . . . A mesmerizing tale of art and the Holocaust.”
—The Washington Post
“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 is the moving story of an 82 year old seamstress from California who took on the Austrian government. Her claim first sounded strange: "The Lady in Gold" is my aunt. The picture was confiscated from my family by the Nazis." But she was telling the truth and won the battle."
Lilit Wagner, Yedioth Aharonot
Dr. D. Lurie, Head of Restoration Tel Aviv Museum, discusses The Lady in Gold with London & Kirshenbaum on national TV, Channel 10. (Segment starts on 41m 20s).
London & Kirshenbaum, Channel 10
Author Anne-Marie O'Connor wins two awards for The Lady in Gold: The 2013 Marfield Award for Arts Writing and the Commonwealth Club's 2013 California Book Award.
Art Club of Washington
"The Austrians had an artistic answer to the question "Have you murdered and inherited?". The fascinating story of the painting "The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer".
Tsur Ehrlich, Makor Rishon
"Exhibiting Determination - How a Jewish Viennese debutante won a protracted legal battle to reclaim a famous painting of her aunt that was stolen by the Nazis."
Abigail Klein Leichman, Jerusalem Post
Anne Marie O'Connor discusses her international best seller The Lady in Gold on the Voice of Israel, segment starts on the 28th minute.
Voice of Israel
Anne-Marie O’Connor discusses her award-winning book The Lady in Gold with Let's Get Lit on TLV1.
Let's Get Lit, TLV1