Friday, October 23, 2015

The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey

In this lush, full historical novel we get a peek inside the art world in Vienna before World War II, as seen through the eyes of Emilie Floge, haute couture fashion designer and companion to famed artist Gustav Klimt. 

Emilie and Gustav meet when she's a girl, and she eventually became a beneficiary of his estate and guardian for his legacy. Between those times, it's well known they were friends and even family (another Floge daughter married Klimt's brother), but the full story of their relationship isn't told - which is where author Elizabeth Hickey set her book's narrative.

The story is told through the small, intimate conversations between two people - their thoughts, emotions, and conversations that aren't part of the historical record. She's given the pair a difficult, complex relationship that's neither friendship nor love but much more and also sometimes less. The story shifts back and forth from Emilie's wartime exile in Attersee and her reminiscence of Vienna and the heyday of the Secession movement.

I loved this book and since all the artists are real, it persuaded me to do some fantastic art history research to see the art they're discussing. Emilie is a strong and independent character, and I was fascinated to learn which parts of the book were really factual. Excellent!

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