May 28, 2008


The gilt Art Nouveau rotary hotline here at Soho the Dog HQ lit up this morning with Geoff Edgers providing detailed background on the continuing dispute over Oskar Kokoschka's 1913 painting "Two Nudes." Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has filed suit in US District Court to establish ownership of the work over the claims of Claudia Seger-Thomschitz, the Austrian heir of Jewish art collector Oskar Reichel, whose 1939 sale of the painting may or may not have been the result of Nazi pressure.

An intriguing story, both for considering the problematic nature of drawing a nuanced line between personal exigency and external duress in situations of organized cruelty, and, it must be said, for how fast any nuance whatsoever flies out the window once attorneys start talking to the press. But what's the classical music angle? Naked pictures of Alma Mahler.

Kokoschka: Two Nudes
That's her on the right, with Oskar next to her, displaying just the sort of wistful apprehension I imagine most of her lovers displayed when she would insist on going "off the trail" during their walks through the woods. The historians Geoff interviewed are of the opinion that the MFA doth protest too much, but regardless of the outcome, there's a certain ad rem poetry in Alma's affairs necessitating a legal untangling. (Incidentally: does every single piece of Nazi-looted art have some connection with Alma Mahler? It is not outside the realm of possibility.)

Update (5/28): Geoff passes along further adventures of Alma and Oskar. John Waters should totally get his hands on this story.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Was she ever in Paris? I have a vague feeling that nearly everything in the early 20th century arts scene might have an Alma association.

Dan Johnson said...

Excellent! I'm collecting these.

Henry Holland said...


[From Wikipedia] In 1938, following the Anschluss, Mahler-Werfel and Werfel, who was Jewish, were forced to flee Austria for France; they maintained a household in Sanary-sur-mer, on the French Riviera, from summer 1938 until spring 1940.

I don't know how much influence she had from the Côte d’Azur, but I suspect staying alive was more of an imperative during her stay in France than being a social hub.

Excellent! I'm collecting these.

Woah, Igor, how *you* doin'? /Joey Tribbiani voice

Alex Ross said...

OK, so what about this "Alma" extravaganza that Geoff linked to?

"ALMA is one of the most successful and most unusual theater productions ever to take place in Europe and the USA. It is an event to get involved with, an interactive stage-play with a very special party to celebrate. The theatrical journey about Alma Mahler’s life has reached cult status in Europe since its debut in 1996. After more than 140 performances to full audiences in Vienna the play moved to Venice, Lisbon, Los Angeles and Berlin where hilarious reviews were published in the international press.

In 2008 the Republic of Austria wants to pay a tribute to Israel’s 60th Independence day by sending this unique theatrical journey as a gift to Israel."

That should certainly put an end to any lingering bad feelings about Austria!

Matthew said...

The playwright is Israeli, so maybe they'll cut him some slack. (He also did a show about Falco. Yes, that Falco.)

My favorite line on the site: It's theater that smells of life itself! And I thought Giuliani closed all those theaters.

Gavin Plumley said...

There's a rather intriguing Prestel publication about the Kokoschka/Alma Mahler relationship. I bought a remainder copy in a sale at the Neue Galerie shop last year.