The life of an extraordinary artist and intellect: the composer, author and socialite Alma Mahler, whose life spanned one of the most captivating and dramatic periods in history
Born into the dying days of the Habsburg Empire, Alma Mahler was at the epicentre of fin de siècle Vienna’s artistic and intellectual life. A talented composer in her own right, she was open, generous, remarkably creative, curious, challenging and zealous in her pursuit of love. Artists, architects, musicians and writers jostled to join her coterie. Gustav Mahler was her first husband; Gustav Klimt her first kiss.
The great men who were drawn into Alma’s wake would be indelibly touched by her power and brilliance: from her second husband Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and modernist architecture, to the Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka and her last husband, writer Franz Werfel. But her life was inflected by tragedy, and the love, support and inspiration that Alma gave to the men she loved came at the heavy price of her own artistic fulfilment. As the turmoil of her century uprooted her from her homeland and she fled Austria first for occupied France and then America, it would be her love of music alone that sustained her through a series of great losses.
Drawing extensively on hitherto unpublished diaries and letters, Cate Haste illuminates the passionate spirit of one of history’s most complex and charismatic muses, a modern woman with an elemental vitality that could scarcely be contained by her century – who will live forever in the art she created.