The Private Adolf Loos

The Private Adolf Loos : Portrait of an Eccentric Genius

4.67 (3 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by  , Translated by 

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Lively, snapshot-like vignettes form an intimate, literary portrait of the infamously eccentric and influential modern architect Adolf Loos.

Written by Loos' third wife, the photographer Claire Beck (1904-1942), these often humorous, short episodes reveal Loos' temperament and philosophy during the last years of his life (1928-1933). His irreverent personality and attitudes about post-Imperial Viennese society, the role of the craftsman, and the organic beauty of raw materials are brought to light. Included in The Private Adolf Loos are Claire's photographs of Loos, collected in museums, as well as informal snapshots of the two of them showing the whimsy and theatricality of this relationship between two artistic personalities-one as infamous as he was well-regarded, and one, a youthful accomplice and budding photographer who would also become Loos' intermediary, secretary and proxy. With this bricolage of short tales and its dark conclusion at the brink of death's door, Claire shows herself to be one of Loos' great champions and memorialists, despite his shortcoming and debilitations. This is not a book just about architecture, but rather a love story about the Modern revolution that provides a woman's insight into one of its most radical personalities, set amid the fascinating cultural backdrop of 1920s and 1930s interwar Europe.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 176 pages
  • 127 x 196 x 17.78mm | 226.8g
  • Los Angeles, United States
  • English
  • black and white illustrations, several never before published
  • 0997003480
  • 9780997003482
  • 1,213,726

Table of contents

Editor's Introductory Notes

Preface: Reflections of a Female Protege

Adolf Loos: A Short Biography

Claire Beck Loos: The Fractured Lens

Introduction to The Private Adolf Loos

Foreword by Claire Beck Loos

The Private Adolf Loos


Adolf Loos' Circle, Some Context

Key to Names


Love Letters from Adolf Loos to Claire Beck


Select Writings By Adolf Loos


In Praise of the Present

Beethoven's Ears

Ornament and Education

Short Hair: Short or Long-Masculine or Feminine?

Oskar Kokoschka

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Review quote

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). [...] It is a richly informative, if sad, tale, and, in Claire's telling, undoubtedly a very largely truthful one.
-Christopher Long, West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 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.
- Dr. Harry Malgrave, Professor of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago 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 37, at the Riga concentration camp; her memoir thus becomes a haunting tribute not only to Adolf's talents, but to her own.
-Judy Pollan,"Shelf Life," Modernism Magazine Architects, especially modernist architects immortalized in austere black and white photographs and strict glass and steel buildings, are too easily reduced to a name, facts and a series of buildings. Their strident, vivacious, selfish or romantic personalities are clouded in architectural history. So this little book [about] Adolf Loos is a welcome antidote to assuming severe buildings may imply a severe person. [...] Adolf Loos is an extrovert, the caricature (or perhaps the original) of the architect who doesn't pay attention to client's budgets, changing plans in the midst of building, a luxury-loving socialist: "I am a Communist. The difference between me and a Bolshevik is only that I want to turn all the people into aristocrats, whether he wants to turn them all into proletarians." The book is separated into short paragraph-length tales of an afternoon or a conversation, making this unique in that you can pick it up at any point. 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 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, former Director of the British Architectural Library, RIBA 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, the Czechoslovak-Viennese theorist and architect, is widely thought to be 20th-century architecture's most controversial figure. His scathing jeremiads on hypocrisy and ornament have generated their own torrent of interpretations, only to prove the enduring fecundity of his ideas. Claire wrote [Adolf Loos Privat] - 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 protege could deliver. Here, theory in the flesh walks in.
-Barbara Lamprecht, coauthor of Neutra, Complete Works, book review for the Society of Architectural Historians
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About Claire Beck Loos

Claire Beck Loos (November 4, 1904 - January 15, 1942*) was a Czechoslovakian photographer and writer. She was the third wife of early modernist Czechoslovak-Austrian architect Adolf Loos. She worked in the atelier of Hede Pollak in Prague and studied photography in Vienna at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt. In 1936, she published Adolf Loos Privat, a literary work of anecdotes about her ex-husband's character, habits, and sayings. Published by the Johannes-Presse in Vienna, the book was intended to raise funds for Adolf Loos's tomb, as he had died destitute three years earlier. She moved to Prague at the beginning of World War II and was deported to Theresienstadt at the end of 1941 and from there to Riga, Latvia, where she was killed in the Holocaust. *Her death date is thus only an estimate.
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Rating details

3 ratings
4.67 out of 5 stars
5 67% (2)
4 33% (1)
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