Almudena de Maeztu
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Lecture SeriesUnique Women (IV)Alma Mahler

  • Date: 7/05/2013
  • Presenter:
    • Lucía Franco

The figure of Alma Mahler is one of the most controversial of the 20th century. For men, she was a religious mantis who exploited her lovers before extracting their creative genius; for the Jew, an anti-Semite who embraced the cause of nazism; for the feminists, a composer to be who remained frustrated due to an oppressing husband; for the Nazis, a libertine who married two Jews. All these appreciations, although partially true, are not enough to explain who was in reality this kaleidoscopic woman who did not paint, but lived surrounded by art?; a woman who practically did not write, but was fundamental in the literary life of Vienna; a woman who hardly composed, but remains in a position of prominence in the history of music. The fact is that her shadow is not only present in the works of her first husband (the composer Gustav Mahler), or over the the paintings of painter Oskar Kokoschka (her lover for three years), but she is also present in the first designs by the Bauhaus, the German school that would be the most influential in decorative arts and industrial design of the past century. This is due to the relationship of Alma with the architect Water Gropius, founder of the school, which lasted almost a decade and began when Alma wast still married to the Bohemian musician. The lovers got married in 1916 (five years after Mahler's death) and divorced in October 1920, just a year after Gropius created the Bauhaus school in the German city of Weimar. Along those nine politically agitated years; due to the First World War, the Russian Revolution, or the Republic of Weimar; the basis that would transform Gropious' school in one of the most strong influences of the history of art were established.

But Alma Mahler was already present in 1900 in Vienna, in the streets that saw artists of the size of Gustav Klimt, Stephan Zweig, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schoenberg, Karl Kraus, or Gustav Mahler. She experienced from the inside the birth of what was called the Vienna Secession, its Decorative Arts workshops, and the birth of atonal music. She managed to attract into her living room the best brains of the moment. But, what was the attractive of this fascinating woman who, still nowadays, remains at the heart of the controversy? What was her role in this brilliant scenario? Where did her irresistible attraction to some of the greatest genius of the past century lay? The review of her life is a trip across the 20th century, with immense artistic achievements of rupture and vanguard, but also with horrors and misery. A world in which she remained, maybe not as protagonist, but at least as a guest star.   

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