The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
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The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  921 ratings  ·  191 reviews
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 L...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Knopf Doubleday (first published January 1st 2012)
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Patricia
There are so many reasons to read this book.
- The Lady in Gold is a must read for anyone who loves Klimt or Belle-epoque Vienna.
- It should be required reading for any art student (or art lover).
- It carries the flame of remembrance of the Holocaust in a profoundly moving way.
- It captures the interplay between those who have felt the weight of the collective guilt of the German people
and those who would deny it or trivialize it. (It reminds me of the New German Film of the 1970s) It also ra...more
Lisa
A great book for lovers of art history and European history. The author takes you first to turn-of-the-century Vienna and introduces you to the painter, Gustav Klimt, and to Adele Bloch-Bauer, the subject, and her friends and family. Then you are taken on a journey with the painting and the family through World War I (and the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and World War II (and the end, or the travails, of many of the Jews of Europe, including members of the Bloch-Bauer family and their fri...more
Margo Brooks
I wanted to like this book, but it was a struggle to get through for three reasons. First, I blame the publisher for the title which I found misleading. Yes, the author's inspiration was the law suit to repatriate Klimt's portrait of Adel Bloch-Bouer. However, the majority of the book has nothing to do with the painting, the lawsuit or the story behind either. It does provide a fascinating picture of Vienna's art world between the wars and a horrifying description of the Nazi occupation of Austr...more
Anne Broyles
This is a fascinating book with a cast of thousands that is sometimes hard to keep track of—and I am impressed that the author was able to keep all the complicated details in order. More than just the story of a famous painting, THE LADY IN GOLD covers:
*the art of Gustav Klimt and other Austrian artists both before, during and after the Nazi era
*the rich artistic culture in Austria before the war
*how deeply involved many Jewish Austrians were as artists, models and art patrons and collectors
*how...more
Stephanie
I suspect that most people are familiar with Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer" the modernist painting of the heavy-lidded dark-haired woman surrounded by a shimmering mosaic of gold. I picked up the book expecting nothing more than a further elaboration on the subject's heirs successful international legal battle to recover the artwork. Yet, the title of the book does not do justice to the scope of O'Connor's exhaustively researched and detailed work.

O'Connor opens the book with al...more
Paul
I had the great luck to see the two Gustav Klimt paintings of Adele Bloch-Bauer at the Oesterreichse Gallerie Belvedere in during my college years and vaguely followed the news about the US court case from the heirs of the original owners, so when I learned of this book, I picked it up immediately.

And the book does deliver on the title--we learn what happened to the portrait pictured on the cover, and the ensuing court case.

However, O'Connor also expanded the book to become a biography of those...more
Colleen O'Neill Conlan
An engrossing book, I suppose you could call it a biography of a painting and the world around it. It explores the painting itself, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and it's creation as a kind of collaboration between the Jewish model and the artist, Gustav Klimt. But it goes much deeper, showing us the Viennese world at the time of its inception: a glowing, golden, culturally rich city where intellectual Jewish society was at the foreground. It traces the rise of Naziism in Austria, how the Jews at the cor...more
Gordon
Not a pretentious book in any way. O'Connor has an accessible style that seems more like a newspaper article (lots of short paragraphs and sentences in this narrative). However, she continually informs us about the world of Vienna from 1890 until the present. In this story of the major actors in the drama of the Klimt painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer, O'Connor reveals the racism so prevalent in Vienna from the beginning to the end. Her stories of modern-day Vienna show that the Austrians still don'...more
Loraine
It's the very end of the nineteenth century in fin de siecle Vienna and modernist thought is making hash of established ideas about human behavior, art, literature. Gustav Klimt is an established Secessionist artist, recognized and adored by the intelligensia who lived in elegant apartments along the Ringstrasse. They were Jewish and fully integrated into Viennese society as a result of emancipation, often secular, and progressive thinkers. Their salons provided discussion of modernist ideas. Th...more
Kristie Kercheval
If you enjoy art history or would enjoy WWII European History, you'll enjoy The Lady in Gold. My memory of learning about Gustav Klimt as a freshman in college was that he was a this jerk who lived a dissipated life, dying an early death. His overall contribution to Modern Art was not as significant as other artists at the same time, and we only briefly considered his work.

This book changed my viewpoint on Klimt's work. I thought it was interesting that he got his inspiration for his later pain...more
Jessica Thomson
I really wanted to like this book more than I did in the end. This is totally the type of art historical book I generally love to read. The subject matter is fascinating. However, I felt that this book was hard to follow at points. The author did not establish the genealogy of the family well enough for my liking and I spent a lot of time trying to remember how a people were related. And as this story involves a large number of family members over time, so I was often confused. A family tree wou...more
Hank Stuever
Disclosure: Anne-Marie O'Connor is a friend of mine, but I have to just add a few words here to say how much I admire the way she's synthesized all this material into a gripping story of people, art, human nature (the worst kind), war, memory, recompense. There is something on every page that surprises -- the sort of facts and tangents that a more narrow account might have edited out, but that beautifully illuminate the larger story to be told here. You can tell this book was carefully written a...more
Bronwyn
Maybe more like 3.5 stars, but I'm not willing to bump this one up to 4 like I have some others... This was a very interesting book and parts of it were really interesting and enjoyable. I really enjoyed reading about early 20th century Vienna, Adele, and Klimt. The battle for the painting at the end was really interesting too, but I wound up coming out of that hating everyone... Other parts just dragged on and on and was very redundant at times. I couldn't always keep track of who was who becau...more
Mary Miller
The story of the Block Bauer family is riveting. The web of deceit that is woven from 1938 till the 1990's reveals a key piece of 20th century history. The lives of the 2nd Society, their rise, fall and the subsequent fate of their families are a must read. Most fascinating are the cover ups in the late 20th century, the resistance to admit that the Klimt portraits and landscapes were stolen property seems almost unbelievable. In terms of the writing, the work needs a good editor, it is clouded...more
Jonathan Lopez
In 1907, when Austrian artist Gustav Klimt painted his famed portrait of the Viennese socialite Adele Bloch-Bauer, he could not have known that the sophisticated world inhabited by the sitter's wealthy Jewish family would be destroyed by the Nazi takeover of the country in 1938. Adele's heirs fled to Switzerland – their business interests in tatters and their art collection, including the portrait, confiscated by Hitler's minions...

The rest of my review is available free online at The Huffington...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book was one of the selections for my in-person book club. When it was selected I assumed it would be more like Girl With a Pearl Earring or Girl in Hyacinth Blue, novelizations of the story of how a painting was made.

That is not what this book is. It is a non-fiction account of one painting and others, from when Klimt was alive up into the 21st century with the legal battle removing the painting from the Belvedere in Vienna and giving it to descendents of the woman in the painting.

I have...more
Nancy
Last year I read an historical novel about Klimt. This non-fiction book presented a much more graphic picture of early 20th Century Vienna and its social and cultural milieu.

The author, Anne-Marie O'Conner was introduced to this subject through research for a Sunday magazine feature story for the L.A. Times. She became fascinated with the stories of Adele Bloch-Bauer's niece, and her research led to this very sympathetic presentation of the family
story.

Although this is non-fiction, it is definit...more
Jenny
Apr 14, 2012 Jenny marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Starred review in Library Journal (March 2012).
Erez Davidi
"The Lady in Gold" tells the fascinating story of Gustav Klimt's portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and all the trouble gone through until it ended up with its rightful owners. In considering the events alone that took place until the painting was retrieved by the heirs of Adele Bloch-Bauer would be enough to produce a gripping story. However, this book is much more. It can be divided into three main parts. The first, takes place in Vienna prior to WW1 and the Anschluss, the reunification between Ger...more
Lynda
If you are not interested in history, you will probably find this book slow in spots but my only complaint is that I want to know more. I immediately "googled" some of the names and many of the artworks.

Beginning with the social, sexual and artistic revolution in Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century, followed by romance, lust, arranged marriages, monarchy, the holocaust, international law and justice and family squabbles - this book is just loaded with characters that jump off the page an...more
Diana
What a marvelous story of restitution for Maria and her family. In spite of the family squabbles, this well-written, highly-engaging book left me similing in the end that after all this poor family has been through, they got their things back - paintings and restitution on the home.

The story of the extended Bloch-Bauer family and the individual tragedies and survival stories of the various members was horrifying, riveting and poignant in the extreme. The background on Klimt and his proclivities...more
Helen
Imagine thugs, ruffans, coming into your home, taking what they want and then even spiriting away your family members?! This was what the Nazis did to the Jewish elite of Vienna(and other places, too) with the good citizens of Vienna silently complicit. The theft of art works by the Nazis was one of the side effects of their criminal regime and is what this book is about.

The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, aka The Lady in Gold (so remaned by the Nazis---she then would not be acknowledged as a Jew...more
ML
This is a compelling book, a pointillist account of an era of Viennese art, a whodunit tale of that horrific time when Jews who thought they had assimilated into Austrian society had their 'degenerate' blood lines exposed and lost their wealth and position even as they managed to escape with their lives.
I had to keep notes on the cast of characters. Still, when I'd read the last word, I could not put aside the sadness of strained family ties and the knowledge that there are many other stories l...more
Erika
Awesome, heartbreaking, fascinating -- illustrates the cultural contributions of assimilating Jews in turn-of-the century Vienna, as well as many tales of loss and brutality during Nazi-era Austria, wound as individual narratives that span generations. Describes also Austria's reluctance to fully address complicity with Nazi crimes- to this day. Shocking and complex history bound up around one painting. I'll never look at a Klimt painting the same way.

Wish I had read this before visiting the Ne...more
Susan
Not too long ago, Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, made headlines when a court case took it away from the Belvedere gallery in Vienna to give to Adele’s heirs, who sold it to Ronald Lauder (of the Estee Lauder fortune). This book weaves together many of the threads of the story of Klimt and Secessionist Vienna and Adele and her family. In her will written in 1923, Adele left the painting to the Belvedere. However, she certainly could not have foreseen that it would end up there afte...more
Janebbooks
About the only thing that Anne-Marie O'Connor doesn't give readers in her 349 page tome written in flowery narrative form is a simple yet spectacular-sounding description of THE LADY IN GOLD: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1881-1925) by Gustav Klimt. The painting completed in 1907 is oil, silver and gold leaf on canvas. It measures an awe-inspiring 138 cm by 138 cm and is considered a highlight of the Viennese Art Nouveau period (1890-1910). An art lover and blogger, Sabine Clappaert, observes:...more
Andrew
Top-notch. One of two books I've read recently about Klimt portraits. This one covers a lot of history and culture as well as the art scene. Couldn't put it down even though as the story entered the Nazi era it became more and more depressing.
It's also the story of Adele Bloch-Bauer's niece's efforts to get back what had been taken. At a lecture I asked the author, Anne-Marie O'connor (now Jerusalem bureau chief for the NY Times) whether the argument that this painting had significant Austrian P...more
Sharalynne Pasztor
Not an easy read but good. In Austria, pre-holocaust, Gustav Klimt painted a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. She was a Jewish society woman. The book is about the holocaust, the thievery of paintings ( including this one ) by the Nazi's and the families attempts after many years to get their painting back from an Austrian museum. There are alot of names in this book...sometimes I found it a little hard to keep people straight. But I do think it is worth reading.
Edna
I enjoy historical fiction. It makes it alive and easier to comprehend. I have been a fan of Gustav Klimt's ladies he painted at the turn of the 20th century for a few years. The book follows the generations of one of his models. It goes through a part of history of the wealthy Jewish families of Vienna right up to more recent recoveries of WWII stolen art. The last part dragged some as the author goes into great detail on the legal cases. A wonderful story.
Dvora
This tells the remarkable story of the painting, the artist, the model, their lives, their milieu, WWII, the Holocaust, how Austria behaved, and the fight for restitution from the Austrians for all they had stolen.

It’s a big story and a very interesting and important one. The parts about the artist, model, painting, and the era in which it was painted are interesting. The parts about the War, Austria, the Holocaust, and how Austria behaved after the war are even more interesting and probably mor...more
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Anne-Marie O'Connor is a veteran foreign correspondent, war reporter and culture writer who has covered everything from post-Soviet Cuba to American artists and intellectuals. O'Connor attended Vassar and the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where she and fellow students co-created an award-winning documentary on the repression of mural artis...more
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