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Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900by Tim Bonyhady
Synopses & Reviews
Vienna and its Secessionist movement at the turn of the last century is the focus of this extraordinary social portrait told through an eminent Viennese family, headed by Hermine and Moriz Gallia, who were among the great patrons of early-twentieth-century Viennese culture at its peak.
Good Living Street takes us from the Gallias’ middle-class prosperity in the provinces of central Europe to their arrival in Vienna, following the provision of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1848 that gave Jews freedom of movement and residence, legalized their religious services, opened public service and professions up to them, and allowed them to marry.
The Gallias, like so many hundreds of thousands of others, came from across the Hapsburg Empire to Vienna, and for the next two decades the city that became theirs was Europe’s center of art, music, and ideas.
The Gallias lived beyond the Ringstrasse in Vienna’s Fourth District on the Wohllebengasse (translation: Good Living Street), named after Vienna’s first nineteenth-century mayor.
In this extraordinary book we see the amassing of the Gallias’ rarefied collections of art and design; their cosmopolitan society; we see their religious life and their efforts to circumvent the city’s rampant anti-Semitism by the family’s conversion to Catholicism along with other prominent intellectual Jews, among them Gustav Mahler. While conversion did not free Jews from anti-Semitism, it allowed them to secure positions otherwise barred to them.
Two decades later, as Kristallnacht raged and Vienna burned, the Gallias were having movers pack up the contents of their extraordinary apartment designed by Josef Hoffmann. The family successfully fled to Australia, bringing with them the best private collection of art and design to escape Nazi Austria; included were paintings, furniture, three sets of silver cutlery, chandeliers, letters, diaries, books and bookcases, furs—chinchilla, sable, sealskin—and even two pianos, one upright and one Steinway.
Not since the publication of Carl Schorske’s acclaimed portrait of Viennese modernism, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, has a book so brilliantly—and completely—given us this kind of close-up look at turn-of-the-last-century Viennese culture, art, and daily life—when the Hapsburg Empire was fading and modernism and a new order were coming to the fore.
Good Living Street re-creates its world, atmosphere, people, energy, and spirit, and brings it all to vivid life.
"This disquieting family saga begins in early 20th-century Vienna and ends in Sydney, Australia, portraying through three generations of the author's family the patriotism, conservatism, and love of culture among Viennese Jewish haute bourgeoisie and their dispersal after the Nazi Anschluss in 1938. The section on the author's maternal great-grandparents, Moritz and Hermine Gallia, is the book's highlight. The Gallias, Jews who had converted to Catholicism, were patrons of Vienna's modern artists, including Gustav Klimt (who painted Hermine's portrait) and the art and design group Wiener WerkstÃ¤tte. The descriptions of the early years of the Holocaust in Austria, as seen through the Gallias' eyes, are vivid, including daughter KÃ¤the's arrest and interrogation by the Nazis (who knew of the family's Jewish origins). KÃ¤the and her older sister, Gretl, eventually fled to Australia; Gretl's daughter Anne is the author's mother. Bonyhady, an art historian and environmental lawyer in Australia, sticks so closely to the family story that he stints on historical context (e.g., he writes, 'the Australian Jewish Welfare Society was ambivalent about Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis,' without further explanation). Still, Bonyhady's book does a real service by unearthing the story of a prominent Jewish family during Vienna's artistic flowering and the impact of WWII. 8 pages of color photos, b&w photos." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Not since the publication of Carl Schorske’s Fin-De-Siècle Vienna has a book so brilliantly given us a close-up portrait of turn-of-the-century Vienna, as seen through the lives of an eminent family, the Gallias, among the city’s great patrons of the early twentieth century: their upper-class life; their rarefied collections of art and design; their religious life; and their daring flight from the Nazi Anschluss.
Tim Bonyhady, great-grandson of the Gallias, tells the story of the family’s middle-class prosperity from the provinces of Central Europe where they grew up to their arrival in Vienna, following the emperor’s proclamation that Jews had freedom of movement and residence, and shows how for the next two decades, the Vienna that became theirs was at the center of art, music, and ideas in all of Europe.
We see the amassing of the Gallias’ rarefied collections of art; their cosmopolitan society; and how, as Kristallnacht was raging, the family escaped to Australia and took with them the best private collection intact of modernist art and design.
An extraordinary portrait of a time and place.
About the Author
Tim Bonyhady is an award-winning art historian, curator, and environmental lawyer. He is the director of the Centre of Climate Law and Policy at the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra, Australia.
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