Eric Kandel

When Auguste Rodin visited Vienna in june 1902, Berta Zuckerkandl invited the great French sculptor, together with Gustav Klimt, Austria’s most accomplished painter, for a Jause, a typical Viennese afternoon of coffee and cakes. Berta, herself a leading art critic and the guiding intelligence of one of Vienna’s most distinguished salons, recalled this memorable afternoon in her autobiography:

Klimt and Rodin had seated themselves beside two remarkably beautiful young women—Rodin gazing enchantedly at them.… Alfred Grünfeld [the former court pianist to Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany, now living in Vienna] sat down at the piano in the big drawing room, whose double doors were opened wide. Klimt went up to him and asked: “Please play us some Schubert.” And Grünfeld, his cigar in his mouth, played dreamy tunes that floated and hung in the air with the smoke of his cigar.

Rodin leaned over to Klimt and said: “I have never before experienced such an atmosphere—your tragic and magnificent Beethoven fresco; your unforgettable, temple-like exhibition; and now this garden, these women, this music … and round it all this gay, childlike happiness.… What is the reason for it all?”

And Klimt slowly nodded his beautiful head and answered only one word: “Austria.”

Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present, New York, 2012, p. xiii