This is the story of the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer painted by Gustav Klimt, an Austrian artist of the modernist school. The first part of the book details Vienna in the early 20th century, the historical and cultural context of the painter and his model. Then the author describes the fate of this painting and many other artworks under the regime of the Nazi Party after the annexation of 1938. The last section is about the efforts of Adele's heirs to recover possession of her famous portrait, which has been called the "Austrian Mona Lisa," as well as several other Klimt paintings belonging to the Bloch-Bauer family.
Author Anne-Marie O'Connor writes about the events surrounding Klimt and his paintings with skill and sensitivity. The story moves along at a moderate pace with short chapters or scenes that describe family members, events, or other players in the drama. The book includes information obtained during the author's trip to Austria and her conversations with several Austrians who had lived through the war, raising awareness of the moral and ethical dilemmas posed by the war and what they knew about their families' activities at that time. The publicity surrounding the Bloch-Bauer painting motivated some Nazi descendants to investigate family involvement in events that had not been talked about for many years. This book has wide appeal, and would be of special interest to those who enjoy biography, history, and art. The descriptions of the lawsuit and important legal points are interesting and written with the general reader in mind.
Reviewed by mc, 3/12. Other reviews by mc.