Adolf Loos—A Private Portrait
By Claire Beck Loos
Edited by Carrie Paterson
Translated by Constance C. Pontasch and Nicholas Saunders
200 pages with 35 illustrations.
Cover: Adolf Loos, reading in his dining room inglenook, Vienna, circa 1929.
Photo: Claire Beck Loos.
Lively and often humorous vignettes by the last wife of the early Modern architect Adolf Loos are featured in an intimate 140 page biography by Claire Beck Loos. “Snapshots” of the last years of Loos’ life (1929-1933) reveal the personality and philosophy that helped shape Modern architecture in Vienna and the Czech lands. An introduction and afterword frame the first English translation of the work, which was originally published in German in 1936. A contribution by Janet Beck Wilson, supplemental texts and photographs also included.
PRESS & PRAISE
The theatrical nature of Claire Beck Loos’ narrative, her ultimately tragic journey and her artist’s way of encapsulating the essential about Loos in a mixture of camera-sharp observations is mitigated by an affectionate regard for the brilliant, but deeply flawed man that he was. The book is hugely perceptive and beautifully written.
– Dr. Irena Murray, Director of the British Architectural Library at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), London
Claire wrote the book – first published in 1936 – to raise money for the tombstone Loos designed for himself. The book is so very alive with his presence, however, that surely it was a means to keep him close to her. […] In razor-sharp anecdotes, some a paragraph, some several pages, Claire writes in the present tense. The result is altogether Loosian: timeless, with as little ornament, but as much empathy, as any protégé could deliver. Here, theory in the flesh walks in. more
– Barbara Lamprecht, book review for the Society of Architectural Historians, Southern California chapter
Short tales of an afternoon or a conversation, make this [book] unique. […] You get a very clear sense of who Loos was as a person, or at least how Claire remembers him: an eccentric who flits between intense joy and fury, generous to a fault, unafraid to disagree intensely with a client, full of quips and contradictory ways of seeing the world. It is indeed a personal portrait, and a surprising, quite wonderful little book.
– Nicole Stock, Urbis
Open full review
Claire [Beck Loos] writes about her husband’s colorful life and mercurial moods; his relationships with clients; his strange ways with money and friends and doctors; the time he bought up all the tickets to Schoenberg’s “Gurrelieder” and handed them out on a street corner. Her book reveals a sharp eye for capturing personality, story and zeitgeist.
– Stewart Oksenhorn, Arts Editor, Aspen Times
Adolf Loos – A Private Portrait is a highly personable and ultimately a sorrowful book about Loos in his declining years. This translation of a little known biographical sketch by his wife Claire Beck Loos provides a host of important insights into the man, his intellectual circle, and most importantly his approach to the practice of architecture. The memoir is skillfully and lucidly framed by introductory essays and an Afterword.
– Dr. Harry Mallgrave, Professor of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago
What makes the book most valuable is the fine-grained portrait it provides us of Loos’ last years, of his activities and his preoccupations. […] The English translation of her book, made by Constance C. Pontasch [and Nicholas Saunders], is fluent and accurate, conveying well the tone of Claire Loos’ original (which, in turn, to some extent mimics Loos’ own writing style). Paterson’s introduction and afterword, along with some forty previously unpublished family photographs, add to the story and help flesh it out. It is a richly informative, if sad, tale, and, in Claire’s telling, undoubtedly a very largely truthful one. more
– Christopher Long, West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture
Claire Beck Loos, a gifted photographer and writer, […] reveals much about her ex-husband’s mercurial persona in a series of conversationally-toned vignettes such as “Josephine Baker Dances in Vienna,” “Shimmering Fish” and “At the Nudist Bathhouse.” Some are amusing, some poignant, some portentous of the darkness soon to envelope Europe. Though Claire Loos’s reminiscences are without rancor, she asserts that “Adolf could be a tyrant as much as a vibrant genius.” […] Claire died tragically at 38, at the Riga concentration camp; her memoir thus becomes a haunting tribute not only to Adolf’s talents, but to her own.
– Judy Polan, “Shelf Life” book review – Modernism Magazine, Fall 2012 issue.
Included on the December 2011 Booklist of the Society of Architectural Historians, compiled by Barbara Ann Opar, Architecture Librarian, Syracuse University Library.
Admirably fresh, interesting and well written. […] This very relaxed way of writing about Adolf Loos and his work, and about what the history of architecture and the whole modern art of the 20th century has been, speaks at least as much, if not more than all serious and expert studies and monographs. The reader learns not only a lot about Loos’ bohemian lifestyle, relationship to money, women, or friendship with many cultural personalities of the 20s and 30s, but also about his individual vision of space and matter.
– Ondřej Bezr, iDNES.cz
Recommended to all those interested not only in architecture but also in the dynamic era of twenties and thirties. Not only a recollection of an extraordinary and controversial personality, Claire’s book is also an excellent literary work. She has captured with a brilliant lightness and humor the tedious, but not boring, life beside a somewhat self-centered genius. […] We still feel Loos’ charisma.
– “Annoyed on Vacation and Misunderstood on Site: Loos, We Do Not Know Him,” Lidovk.cz
Interview with Editor Carrie Paterson on Radio Prague.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claire Beck Loos was a photographer and writer, born in 1904 in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. Her immediate and extended families were Jewish industrialists and early clients of Loos. This unusual, literary biography has also become a self-portrait of a vibrant young woman who died a tragic and untimely death at Riga, a Nazi concentration camp, in 1942. The book honors her memory as well as her artistry.