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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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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  2,365 ratings  ·  417 reviews
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 An ...more
Kindle Edition, 370 pages
Published 2012 by Knopf
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Elizabeth Yes, absolutely! the Neue Galerie is currently holding a special exhibition that includes this painting. But, the painting titled The Woman in Gold,…moreYes, absolutely! the Neue Galerie is currently holding a special exhibition that includes this painting. But, the painting titled The Woman in Gold, is part of their permanent collection! Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold

April 2, 2015-September 7, 2015

Note: Although the exhibition "Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold" is only on view through September 7, the painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt is on permanent view at the Neue Galerie.

"Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold" is an intimate exhibition devoted to the close relationship that existed between the artist and one of his key subjects and patrons. Included in the exhibition is a display of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, paintings, related drawings, vintage photographs, decorative arts, and archival material.

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
Suzy
The power of art to tell a story, the power of art to influence and represent a culture, the power of art to create conflict yet also to heal and provide restitution. That is what this book is about to me.

The Lady in Gold is not so much about Klimt and it's not so much about the painting. Yes, it's about Klimt and the painting, but these are mainly jumping off points to tell the story of Vienna and the Jewish aristocracy which was so prominent and influential in Viennese culture at the turn of
...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
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
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
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
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
The Book Jar Blog
Read more of our reviews at: www.thebookjarblog.wordpress.com

The Lady In Gold is the story of Gustav Klimt's portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish-Austrian woman who's family was forced to flee during the Nazi occupation. The Bloch-Bauer family were once prominent, wealthy people in the Austrian society who were patrons of art and theater. Klimt had been commissioned to paint Adele for her husband Ferdinand, and from this commission, the Lady in Gold. However, the painting's history an
...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
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
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
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
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
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
Ryan
I didn't really figure out what the story was until the end of the book - there was lots of interesting information about the Adele, Klimt, their families, the changes taking place in turn-of-the-century Vienna, about the rise of Hitler in Austria, the atrocities of the Nazis and the theft of the belongings of those persecuted by the Nazis. Sometimes the information didn't seem related to the painting and that got confusing. Ultimately, the story was the Bloch-Bauer family's efforts to reclaim t ...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
Sharyn
This book was a little difficult to get into, but I think that is because I do not read much non-fiction. I had read this story a few years back in The New Yorker, and then was lucky enough to see the author and get the book at a literary luncheon. The I was nudged to read it by the fact that a movie, Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren was coming out in April, so had my book club read it. (I need a lot of reasons to read non-fiction!)
The story covers Vienna in the 1900's, then WWI, WWII, and the pr
...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
Amanda
Just finished this fantastic tale of the family and fights around Gustav Klimt's glorious portrait of noted Viennese Jewish society and cultural philanthropist Adele Block-Bauer, which now hangs in the Neue Gallery in New York City, where I viewed the painting and bought the book.

The story is a potted history of Viennese society, the Austrian experience of WW II and Austrian art of the late 19th and early 20th century. Klimt is hailed as one of Austria's greatest painters, but the they have been
...more
Barbara Nease
I picked up this book because I'm a huge Gustav Klimt fan and didn't know anything about his life. I had never heard of the book until I saw movie previews last winter. What a fascinating, tragic story! I'm so glad I read it.
The book is more about the model, Adele Bloch-Bauer and her family in Vienna than about Klimt, though his life is covered.
Vienna was one of the most prominent centers of Jewish culture in Europe at the turn of the 19th century up through the Anschluss. The Bloch-Bauer family
...more
Karen
I saw the movie "Woman in Gold", and looked for the book on which it was based (I made the assumption that it was based on a book). This is a book for those that love art and art history, for sure. I read it for both the art and its place in World War II. Of course I knew that Hitler walked into Austria and occupied it. What I didn't know was how complicit the Austrian people were with the Nazi regime, they welcomed Hitler as hero. Many had joined the Nazi Party prior to 1938.

As we saw with The
...more
Candy
The Lady in Gold is not the movie. It is an well researched telling of Vienna, pre and post WWII, the rise of nazism, the high society, well educated Jewish population in Vienna and the theft of art and of an entire life and lifestyle. O'connor does tell detailed stories of many family members and at times it is hard to keep track but you still come away with a profound sense of injustice and grief for the families who suffered. Can you imagine one day being at home, enjoying your very comfortab ...more
Teri Reck
The story of a Klimt masterpiece, "the Mona Lisa of Austria", and how it was stripped from the family of the subject by greed and hatred during the Holocaust. After many years and a long struggle it finally was returned to the rightful owners, and it was sold and placed on public view in New York. I personally would love to see it, especially now, knowing it's story. I was able to view an unfinished Klimt at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, and even unfinished it was beautiful. This book does ...more
Lauri
The tale is indeed extraordinary, but not portrayed very well in this book. I was really disappointed - the writing was disjointed and hard to follow.
Andreea
Cross-disciplinary (history of art, culture & life style, wartime & family chronicles), well documented, following the logical thread of first, putting the painting into a context, moving to the painting creation and describing the list of different owners and places where the painting was displayed. The "golden" Vienna is described so vividly that you could even get a feeling of being in one of those gardens with their flowers and smells; or get a good sense how a family gathering, a ma ...more
Nancy
You would think after reading book upon book revolving around the Holocaust, that nothing would surprise me anymore. Not to be. This was my first book that was immersed in the Jewish wealth and the society of art. And, seriously, could you imagine having all that you have right this very minute - the life you lead of abundance upon blessing and then tomorrow, to be totally overtaken by the enemy and stripped of all which goes beyond merely the materialistic aspect of life but the self-worth, emo ...more
Elsie Klumpner
This was a fascinating read. The author does a good job at moving through the early history of the residents of Vienna, Austria, setting the stage for their involvement in the Holocaust and the extermination of European Jews as well as the art story that arose from those years - the theft of art from Jews on their way to their deaths.

Occasionally difficult to read, due to the extreme inhumanity that the Austrians, in particular, inflicted on their Jewish friends and neighbors, it tells the stor
...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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“to every age its art; to art its freedom.” 3 likes
“Austrians were allowed to paper over their pasts and portray themselves as unwilling participants. They felt sorry for themselves, and for the proud family names sullied with the taint of Nazi collaboration. The Cold War began in earnest, and the West was eager to hang on to Austria. A 1948 amnesty brought a premature end to Austrian de-Nazification. Austrians began to deny their jubilant welcome of Hitler and to claim that Austria had been “occupied” by Germany, like” 1 likes
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