Goodbye Austria

Here’s a nice story I read in The Age of Insight by Eric Kandel, taken from the autobiography of art critic Berta Zuckerkandl:

In June 1902, the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin was passing through Vienna, en route from Prague.

While in town, he accepted an invitation to visit the current exhibition of the Vienna Secession movement, and to meet the artist whose monumental work, the Beethoven Frieze, was at the heart of the display: Gustav Klimt.

“That afternoon, slim and lovely vamps came buzzing around Klimt and Rodin, those two fiery lovers,” Zuckerkandl recalled.

Alfred Grünfeld [former court pianist to Emperor Wilhem I of Germany] sat down at the piano in the big drawing room, whose double doors were opened wide. Klimt went up to him and asked: “Please play us some Schubert.” And Grünfeld, his cigar in his mouth, played dreamy tunes that floated and hung in the air with the smoke of his cigar.

Rodin leaned over and to Klimt and said, ‘I have never before experienced such an atmosphere – your tragic and magnificent Beethoven fresco, your unforgettable, temple-like exhibition, and now this garden, these women, this music. What is the reason for it all?’ And Klimt slowly nodded his beautiful head, and answered only one word: ‘Austria.’

Wow! Austria, you really are an amazing country. My impression was that the people of Austria share a desire to “do things right”, even if it takes a long time and it’s not easy. The art, the music, the food, the clothing, the respect for tradition and crafts, and the work ethic of the Austrian people… all amazing. I am sad to go… and I really had the feeling upon leaving that I was going too soon. Many thanks to the amazing Zelger family for being the most incredible ambassadors anyone could ever wish for.

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