Synopses & Reviews
In her passionate and atmospheric debut novel, The Painted Kiss,
Elizabeth Hickey reimagines the relationship between Gustav Klimt and the woman whose name he uttered with his dying breath.
Vienna in 1886 was a city of elegant cafés, grand opera houses, and a thriving and adventurous artistic community. It was there that twelve-year-old Emilie Flöge met the con-troversial libertine and painter Gustav Klimt. When Klimt is hired by Emilie's bourgeois father to give her some basic drawing lessons, he introduces her to a subculture of dissolute artists, wanton models, and decadent patrons that both terrifies and fascinates her.
The Painted Kiss follows the developing relationship between Klimt and Emilie, who blossoms from a nave girl to a sanguine woman, becoming mistress to one of the twentieth century's most fascinating artists and the owner of an exclusive fashion house, which Klimt helps design. Fin de sicle Vienna glitters with wealthy, beautiful women for Emilie to dress in her salon and for Klimt to undress in his studio. It is a world overflowing with the greatest artists, composers, and writers of the era, and yet doomed by the imminent collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Although she is never sure of her place in Klimt's life, Emilie is a constant presence, supporting him through tragedy, self-doubt, triumph, and scandal -- and ultimately serving as the model for his greatest masterpiece.
The Painted Kiss is a moving love story that is as sensual and compelling as a work by Klimt himself.
"Hickey imagines the bonds between Gustav Klimt and his younger lover whose name he pronounced with his dying breath in her expressively written debut. Before Emilie Floge became the owner of a successful Viennese fashion house and Klimt became a famed, controversial painter, she was a privileged 12-year-old reluctantly taking drawing lessons and he was her starving artist teacher. From her WWII hideaway in the Austrian countryside in 1944, where she has transported Gustav's drawings ('all I could bring from Vienna... [perhaps] the only things of his to survive'), the aged Emilie flashes back to her fin-de-sicle hometown. Hickey traces the changing relationship between Klimt and his protg from when she first became his art student as an adolescent through their on-again, off-again romance as she matures to their complicated relationship that culminates in the famed painting The Kiss. While the novel bears some obvious similarities to Girl with a Pearl Earring, it doesn't quite have that novel's power. But Hickey's language is sensual, lush and unhurried, and the prose wears its author's research gracefully." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The Painted Kiss
is richly atmospheric and haunting."
-- Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light
"In Elizabeth Hickey's compelling novel of tempestuous lives amid the tawdry bohemia of artists' studios and the glittering innuendo of Viennese café society, longing pulses from the page. The Painted Kiss
is vivid, atmospheric, engaging, and very, very real."
-- Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue