By Sara Evans

Have you read it yet?” “You have got to read it!” Last summer, there was so much buzz about a book called “The Hare with Amber Eyes” that I bit the bullet and borrowed it from my local library. When I opened the first few pages to an elaborate family tree that ran across two pages, my heart sank. Way too complicated for a summer read. But I couldn’t put this engaging and heartbreaking book down and I referred to the family tree incessantly.

When renowned British ceramicist, Edwin de Waal inherited 264 netsuke, tiny intricately carved wood and ivory carvings, from an uncle who lived in Japan, he realized that the legacy came with unwritten instructions, a mandate to explore the history of a once-important family that has all but disappeared.

His ancestors, the Ephrussis, were the wealthiest grain merchants in Russia in the middle of the 19th century. Like the Rothschilds, they became wealthy bankers, sending sons to Paris and Vienna from their native city of Odessa. They built fortunes and palaces, and they collected art, lots and lots of art. De Waal’s odyssey and mission, to trace his family, took him around the globe, to cities he visited over and over again, to Tokyo, to Paris and Vienna, in search of both lost lives and the family’s lost art.

On his journey, he learned that his forbear, Charles Ephrussi, had been a major collector and art critic in Paris, the builder of an important houseon the Rue de Monceau, and the model and inspiration for Proust’s Charles Swann.

He learned how the family in Vienna built an immense palace just off the Ringstrasse which they filled with generations of children and an important collection of art. He learned how the palace was requisitioned by the Nazis, its contents looted and dispersed, and the family along with it. De Waal’s story is both sad and riveting—and not be missed.

The Australian writer, Tim Bonyhady, tells a similarly fascinating family saga about his Viennese forbears, the Gallia family, who, like the Ephrussis, were enormously wealthy and influential, and major collectors of art. His book, “Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900,” tells the tale of a family who were major movers and shakers behind Vienna’s famed Secessionist movement. Like so many of their generation, the Gallias were among the hundreds of thousands of Jews who flocked to Vienna from the far-flung corners of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Within fifty years, under the benign leadership and welcoming borders of Emperor Franz Josef, Vienna went from being a provincial backwater to the most modern—and most Jewish—city in Europe.

They supported the important artists and designers of their day, Gustave Klimt, Egon Schiele, Josef Hoffmann, and countless others. Their home expressed the new modernism that gripped the city, filled with furniture and paintings, porcelains and glass, pieces that emblemized both contemporary art and the modernist outlook.

But converting to Catholicism, like so many of the fellow Viennese Jews, did not help the Gallia family. They were on the hit-list, a target of the rampant anti-Semitism that was not far beneath the surface in Austria as well as other countries in Europe. Luckier than many other families, the Gallias managed to get their art and furniture, their modernist clothes and furs and silver, out of Vienna and to their new home in Australia. Like de Waal’s book, Bonyhady’s is a fascinating and sad read.

“Lost, Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft and the Quest for Justice” by Melissa Müller and Monika Tatzkow, takes a broader and more scholarly view of the subject. It explores collections not just of Viennese families, but of others throughout Europe, the collections of such prominent families as the Bloch-Bauers, Mendelssohns and Rothschilds, as well as twelve others. These families all shared a passion for the arts—and the fate of those persecuted for being Jewish. Exiled, killed, scattered, their art collections stolen and dispersed, the fates of these families and their art is both intriguing and heart-breaking.

Many pieces of looted art have disappeared forever; they have either been destroyed or are in private hands. Many others were bought in good faith, by galleries, dealers and art museums. There is an ongoing attempt to right the vast wrongs of the Nazi regime, by finding the remnants of original owners or their heirs, and restoring to them their family treasures.

This book details fifteen families and their collections, and traces the works they owned and lost, and the endless attempt, by both their heirs and a dedicated group of international lawyers, to restore artworks to their owners, tracing pieces by Klimt, Pissarro, Klee, Manet, Monet and others, from their acquisition, theft and restoration to the present day.

Collector and museum-owner Ronald Lauder, who is Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery, observes, “Today, sixty-five years since the end of World War II, we are still trying to liberate these works of art—the last prisoners of the war.”

(“The Hare with Amber Eyes” is available in paperback from Picador; “Good Living Street” is published by Pantheon, and “Lost Lives, Lost Art” is published by Vendome.)SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/audrey/Desktop/word%20press%20winter%202012/Three%20Tales%20of%20a%20City.doc @font-face { font-family: “Times New Roman”; }@font-face { font-family: “Arial”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

By Sara Evans

 

Have you read it yet?” “You have got to read it!” Last summer, there was so much buzz about a book called “The Hare with Amber Eyes” that I bit the bullet and borrowed it from my local library. When I opened the first few pages to an elaborate family tree that ran across two pages, my heart sank. Way too complicated for a summer read. But I couldn’t put this engaging and heartbreaking book down and I referred to the family tree incessantly.

When renowned British ceramicist, Edwin de Waal inherited 264 netsuke, tiny intricately carved wood and ivory carvings, from an uncle who lived in Japan, he realized that the legacy came with unwritten instructions, a mandate to explore the history of a once-important family that has all but disappeared.

His ancestors, the Ephrussis, were the wealthiest grain merchants in Russia in the middle of the 19th century. Like the Rothschilds, they became wealthy bankers, sending sons to Paris and Vienna from their native city of Odessa. They built fortunes and palaces, and they collected art, lots and lots of art. De Waal’s odyssey and mission, to trace his family, took him around the globe, to cities he visited over and over again, to Tokyo, to Paris and Vienna, in search of both lost lives and the family’s lost art.

On his journey, he learned that his forbear, Charles Ephrussi, had been a major collector and art critic in Paris, the builder of an important houseon the Rue de Monceau, and the model and inspiration for Proust’s Charles Swann.

He learned how the family in Vienna built an immense palace just off the Ringstrasse which they filled with generations of children and an important collection of art. He learned how the palace was requisitioned by the Nazis, its contents looted and dispersed, and the family along with it. De Waal’s story is both sad and riveting—and not be missed.

The Australian writer, Tim Bonyhady, tells a similarly fascinating family saga about his Viennese forbears, the Gallia family, who, like the Ephrussis, were enormously wealthy and influential, and major collectors of art. His book, “Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900,” tells the tale of a family who were major movers and shakers behind Vienna’s famed Secessionist movement. Like so many of their generation, the Gallias were among the hundreds of thousands of Jews who flocked to Vienna from the far-flung corners of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Within fifty years, under the benign leadership and welcoming borders of Emperor Franz Josef, Vienna went from being a provincial backwater to the most modern—and most Jewish—city in Europe.

They supported the important artists and designers of their day, Gustave Klimt, Egon Schiele, Josef Hoffmann, and countless others. Their home expressed the new modernism that gripped the city, filled with furniture and paintings, porcelains and glass, pieces that emblemized both contemporary art and the modernist outlook.

But converting to Catholicism, like so many of the fellow Viennese Jews, did not help the Gallia family. They were on the hit-list, a target of the rampant anti-Semitism that was not far beneath the surface in Austria as well as other countries in Europe. Luckier than many other families, the Gallias managed to get their art and furniture, their modernist clothes and furs and silver, out of Vienna and to their new home in Australia. Like de Waal’s book, Bonyhady’s is a fascinating and sad read.

“Lost, Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft and the Quest for Justice” by Melissa Müller and Monika Tatzkow, takes a broader and more scholarly view of the subject. It explores collections not just of Viennese families, but of others throughout Europe, the collections of such prominent families as the Bloch-Bauers, Mendelssohns and Rothschilds, as well as twelve others. These families all shared a passion for the arts—and the fate of those persecuted for being Jewish. Exiled, killed, scattered, their art collections stolen and dispersed, the fates of these families and their art is both intriguing and heart-breaking.

Many pieces of looted art have disappeared forever; they have either been destroyed or are in private hands. Many others were bought in good faith, by galleries, dealers and art museums. There is an ongoing attempt to right the vast wrongs of the Nazi regime, by finding the remnants of original owners or their heirs, and restoring to them their family

treasures.

This book details fifteen families and their collections, and traces the works they owned and lost, and the endless attempt, by both their heirs and a dedicated group of international lawyers, to restore artworks to their owners, tracing pieces by Klimt, Pissarro, Klee, Manet, Monet and others, from their acquisition, theft and restoration to the present day.

Collector and museum-owner Ronald Lauder, who is Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery, observes, “Today, sixty-five years since the end of World War II, we are still trying to liberate these works of art—the last prisoners of the war.”

(“The Hare with Amber Eyes” is available in paperback from Picador; “Good Living Street” is published by Pantheon, and “Lost Lives, Lost Art” is published by Vendome.)

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