Allow me to return to an earlier post: Fauré & Ravel: Nostalgia, so I can finish telling the story of my long-lost friends, Francis and Hélène Gutmann. As you know, they had a great-aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, whose name was perpetuated by Gustav Klimt. Adele Bloch-Bauer was Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer‘s wife. Ferdinand commissioned a portrait of his wife from Gustav Klimt, a founding member of the fin de siècle Vienna Secession, an art movement linked to Art Nouveau, the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Jugendstil: japonisme and modernisme. Gustav Klimt completed the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, in 1907. But there would be a second portrait of Adele: Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912.
When I lived on the West coast, the Bloch-Bauer family had not retrieved the art masterpieces that had been confiscated from the Bloch-Bauer family by the Nazis, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria: the Anschluss (12 March 1938).
I had never heard of Maria Altmann, née Bloch-Bauer, my friends’ aunt who lived in California. Her search for pieces of Klimt’s legacy that belonged to the Bloch-Bauer family had not begun. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s heirs owned five paintings executed by Gustav Klimt, one of which was the famous Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, which Klimt created using gold leaf and silver.
Adele Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis, in 1925, and she and her husband, Ferdinand, never had children. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer fled to Switzerland, but he lost everything and died in Zürich, in 1945. However, in his Will, he bequeathed his wife’s portrait and other pieces, a total of five, by Gustav Klimt, to at least three of the children born to his brother, Dr. (jur.) Gustav Bloch-Bauer (Bloch) whose wife was Therese Bloch-Bauer (Bauer). The names were joined. Gustav Bloch-Bauer (Bloch) died on 2 July 1938, the year Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. He and Therese’s children were:
- Karl (Charles) David Bloch-Bauer;
- Leopold Bloch-Bauer / Bentley;
- Robert Bloch-Bauer / Bentley;
- Mrs. Maria Altmann;
- Baroness Luise Gutmann, wife of Croatian Baron Viktor Gutmann von Gelse und Belišće.
The first persons, whose name comes to mind in this saga are Gustav Bloch and Therese Bauer. The two names, Bloch and Bauer, were joined. Another person is Mrs. Altmann (née Bloch-Bauer) who married Fritz Altmann, in 1937. Her husband was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp in the hope this would force his brother Bernhard Altmann, who had fled to Britain, to transfer his wealth to the Nazis. Fredrik (Fritz) Altmann was released and he and Maria Altmann found a refuge in the United States. Bernhard sent Mrs. Altmann a cashmere sweater, which is how cashmere was brought to the United States. The Altmann family first lived in Massachusetts, but moved to California.
Mrs. Altmann is the heroine, played by actrice Helen Mirren, of the film Woman in Gold (2015). Maria Altmann hired composer Arnold Shoenberg’s grand-son, E. Randol Schoenberg, portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in Woman in Gold, in her successful quest to retrieve the paintings by Gustav Klimt that belonged to the Bloch-Bauer family, but were confiscated by the Nazis.
The Bloch-Bauer Family in Vancouver
The remaining members of the Bloch-Bauer family settled in Vancouver, including Therese Bloch-Bauer (Bauer), Gustav’s widow and Ferdinand’s sister-in-law. They are Karl, Leopold, Robert, and Luise Bloch-Bauer, my friends’ mother and mother-in-law.
Members of the Vancouver branch of the Bloch-Bauer family changed their name to Bentley. Leopold Bloch-Bauer had married Antoinette Pick, so the name Pick was replaced by the name Prentice. I did meet a Mr. Bloch-Bauer. I believe the person I met was either Leopold Bloch-Bauer, Peter Bentley‘s father, or Karl (Charles) David Bloch-Bauer. The gentleman I met suffered from leukemia. So, I met Karl (Charles) David Bloch-Bauer.
Croatia & the Principality of Auersperg
My friends surname is Gutmann. Luise Bloch-Bauer married Croatian Baron Viktor Gutmann von Gelse und Belišće. Baron Viktor Gutmann fled to his homeland, the current Croatia, where he believed he would escape the Holocaust. He did and he didn’t.
Baron Viktor Gutmann and his wife, Luise (Bloch-Bauer), were arrested by Ustaše, in 1943, and imprisoned. Baron Viktor Gutmann’s brother, Ernö, died at the Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Ironically, Viktor Gutmann, a survivor of the Nazi régime, was executed on 17 February 1946, in Zagreb, Croatia, by the Red army. He was an aristocrat and a capitalist, not a criminal and Nazi collaborator. (See Viktor Gutmann, Wikipedia.)
I was told that, fearing for the life of his family, Baron Viktor Gutmann had instructed his wife to marry their Italian and Catholic friend. This Italian friend could be Josep Beppo Gattin. To be certain that what I am writing is correct, I would have to speak with Dr. Nelly Auersberg or Hélène, whom I cannot find. However, I wish to point out that having remarried, Baroness Luise Gutmann was no longer known as a Bloch-Bauer. She was the wife of Josep Beppo Gattin. Francis Gutmann, her son, did not change his name.
I met Baroness Luise Gutmann. Hélène and I stopped by her house, a humble house, and she showed me a document signed by a member of the Strauss dynasty. I therefore associated the now deceased Baroness Gutmann with the Strauss family and the Viennese Waltz. She had entertained guests in her Vienna home to the music of the Strauss. Her son, Francis, married Hélène, a French-Canadian, and Nelly, Dr. Nelly Auersperg, married John Auersperg. Mr. Auersperg would be the prince and perfect gentleman who taught me the Viennese Waltz. The Gutmanns, Francis and Hélène went dancing on Saturday evening and I joined them. Nelly, Hélène’s sister-in-law, is a renowned scientist in her field: ovarian cancer research. (See Principality of Auersperg, Wikipedia.) Mr. Auersperg died on 17 September 2017.
Hélène probably lives in Montreal. She knows that I married David Walker. Hélène attended our wedding. I have found the pictures and the card she gave us, wishing us the best. We visited them at their home in the early 1970s. I also spent a few days with them after they bought their bungalow. They had also purchased a Blouin piano they and I loved. Francis was teaching at the University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, where I now live. They moved to Montreal.
I would love to see Hélène. We share the same family name. If she visited, she could give me suggestions regarding the decoration of my apartment. Her little house on the campus of the University of British Columbia was a jewel.
Love to everyone ♥
Erik Satie – Gymnopédie No.1
© Micheline Walker
16/17 November 2017