Good Living Street
Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900
By Tim Bonyhady
(Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780307378804, 400pp.)
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
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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.
Tim Bonyhady is an award-winning art historian, curator, and environmental lawyer. He is the director of the Centre of Climate Law and Policy at the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra, Australia.
“Bonyhady has delved deeply into his forebears’ concert books, travel logs, letters, and death certificates in an effort to reconstruct his family’s identity and, for his mother, to place ‘a value on her life that she did not.’ The result is a lucid, poignant generational tale of loss of material wealth and cultural identity that provides new perspective and insight into both Holocaust and immigration studies.”
“Tim Bonyhady goes far beyond the story of how a great art collection came into being, with rich descriptions of the political, social, and cultural context of Vienna from the turn of the 20th century to 1938.”
— Victoria Newhouse
Praise from Australia for Good Living Street
“Arts aficionados will be mesmerized here by Bonyhady’s meticulous research of Vienna as an important centre of European arts modernism . . . Good Living Street is a captivating tour-de-force . . . Bonyhady deploys a genre of writing that impressively and poetically weaves together art, social and cultural histories and deeply reflexive investigative family biography with a mesmerizing, galloping narrative—it is at once a book that is arts educational and highly political and personal.”
—Jon Altman, Art Monthly Australia
“Good Living Street is something of a mélange, although rich as an expensive cake tray . . . a rich tapestry of intriguing stories.”
—Chris Wallace-Crabbe, The Saturday Age