The Lady in Gold

The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor Read Free Book Online

Book: The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne-Marie O'Connor
idly wrote on one sketch: “Truth is fire, and to tell the truth means to glow and burn.”

Klimt the Seducer
    By the summer of 1899, Adele was betrothed to Ferdinand. Among those not impressed by Adele’s “hideous fiancé” was her friend Alma Schindler. Like Adele, Alma was still in her teens, and in no mood to be generous.
    Alma was struggling with the desire aroused by the kisses and caresses of Gustav Klimt. She had been fantasizing about Klimt for months that spring when her mother mentioned that the sultry genius would be joining the family on a trip to Italy. Her mother pointedly warned that Klimt had “at least three affairs running simultaneously” and was not to be viewed as a prospective suitor.
    But when Klimt dined with her family on his first night in Italy, “we devoured each other with our glances,” Alma wrote in her diary. Alone with Klimt in a covered horse-drawn carriage on a rainy afternoon in Florence, Alma let Klimt caress her under a blanket, and couldn’t sleep that night for “sheer physical excitement.” At their hotel, Klimt ran his hands through her waist-length hair, abruptly stopping because “he would have lost control of himself and done something foolish.” At the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, “my heart missed a beat. He wanted to feel my breasts!”
    Klimt slipped into Alma’s hotel room in Genoa, “and before I realized it, he’d taken me in his arms and kissed me.” It was “indescribable.” In Verona, Alma volunteered to take Klimt’s ironed shirts to his room, and they kissed until “we were both terribly agitated.” Later, on a stairway, “he stood behind me and said: ‘There’s only one thing for it: complete physical union.’ ” Overwhelmed by desire, Alma “staggered and had to steady myself on the banister.” Klimt insisted: Surely God wouldn’t mind if they physically consummated a union inspired by love.
    The heated glances became obvious. Carl Moll ordered Klimt to stop. Klimt got Alma alone for a feverish last kiss, “with such force, such frisson,”that it “fulfilled a physical instinct.” Now, Alma wrote, “I know what a kiss is.”
    Then Klimt was gone. As Alma brooded over his absence, her family welcomed a visitor who had shared a train compartment with Klimt on his way to Italy. In dark tunnels, this woman told them, Klimt slid toward her, his “eyes aglow.” Alma was furious. “Animal lust,” she wrote, “on the way to see me!”
    But she continued to burn for Klimt.
    As Alma pined, Klimt’s personal life erupted in crisis. Klimt was entering his most creative period, and the intensity coincided with an increasingly complicated love life. When Klimt returned from Italy, he wrote a long emotional letter to one of his young models, Maria Zimmermann, known as Mizzi. Mizzi’s parents lived far from the magnetic world on the Ringstrasse.Her stepfather was a stern, low-paid officer in the royal guard of Emperor Franz Joseph. Her family was poor and Catholic, with many children. Her mother had high hopes for Mizzi, who spent hours in museums and dreamed of being an artist. Her mother mistakenly saw Klimt as a conspicuously eligible bachelor. She encouraged Mizzi to stroll the leafy street in the Josefstadt district where Klimt had his studio.
    The future Alma Mahler, the daughter of Vienna painter Jakob Emil Schindler, ca. 1898. She was tempted to surrender to Klimt at the start of her famous love life with brilliant men. ( Illustration Credit 7.1 )
    Klimt opened the garden door one day and noticed the teenager with golden braids lingering under the chestnut blooms. He invited Mizzi in.
    As Mizzi told her mother breathlessly, Klimt delicately arranged her heavy red-gold hair, gently turning head and shoulders with his large hands as he sketched her. Klimt told Mizzi he would like her to be in

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