29 July 2012

Muse to a generation

For many years I have read biographies of artists and critical analyses of early twentieth century culture in which one name has cropped up again and again - Alma Mahler, or to give her full due, Alma Mahler-Gropius-Werfel. She had a fling with Gustav Klimt, and was the inspiration behind many of her lover Oskar Kokoshka's best paintings. She married composer Gustav Mahler, then architect Walter Gropius (who founded the Bauhaus) and latterly the writer Franz Werfel. You might not be surprised to hear that she managed fit quite a number of other men in as well - so to speak. She composed songs, neglected her children, drank a bottle of Benedictine a day, and thought Hitler was a superman. All these colourful details, and a lot more, come from Susan Keegan's splendid biography, The Bride of the Wind, with which I have just managed to catch up.

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