THE PAINTED KISS

Elizabeth Hickey, Author
Elizabeth Hickey, Author . Atria $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7434-9260-7
Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005

Hickey imagines the bonds between Gustav Klimt and his younger lover—whose name he pronounced with his dying breath—in her expressively written debut. Before Emilie Flöge became the owner of a successful Viennese fashion house and Klimt became a famed, controversial painter, she was a privileged 12-year-old reluctantly taking drawing lessons and he was her starving artist teacher. From her WWII hideaway in the Austrian countryside in 1944, where she has transported Gustav's drawings ("all I could bring from Vienna... [perhaps] the only things of his to survive"), the aged Emilie flashes back to her fin-de-siècle hometown. Hickey traces the changing relationship between Klimt and his protégé from when she first became his art student as an adolescent through their on-again, off-again romance as she matures to their complicated relationship that culminates in the famed painting The Kiss . While the novel bears some obvious similarities to Girl with a Pearl Earring , it doesn't quite have that novel's power. But Hickey's language is sensual, lush and unhurried, and the prose wears its author's research gracefully. (Apr.)

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