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Good Living Street

Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900

Tim Bonyhady

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Description

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Sep 05, 2011 – 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 Werkstätte. The descriptions of the early years of the Holocaust in Austria, as seen through the Gallias’ eyes, are vivid, including daughter Käthe’s arrest and interrogation by the Nazis (who knew of the family’s Jewish origins). Käthe 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.
Good Living Street
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  • $18.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Europe
  • Published: Nov 15, 2011
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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