Josef Rudofsky

Josef Rudofsky in Interrogating Ellie is a painter who, with his wife Alma, befriends Ellie. He is based on the description of the real-life painter Josef Dobrowsky in Hilde Spiel's Return to Vienna: a journal (2011; Ariadne Press, first published in 1968).

"I find him stamping on the stone floor of his unheated studio and raging over the latest events at the Academy of Arts. Herbert Böckl, a painter of similar reputation, has in spite of his good relations with the toppled regime not only been appointed president of that institution, but also put in charge of the painting class...[The picture] I like best is a still-life of a fish, which, Dobrowsky tells me, while he was painting it, took on the poisonous colour of the Devil." (Spiel 2011: p.73)


"He was ab­sorbed in painting a fish, which he said wouldn’t last much longer. It was in front of the easel, decomposing on a plate. Green streaks were appearing near the fins and the clouded eyeballs rested in red rimmed pockets. The smell was strong.

‘I took it from Alma as soon as I saw it!’ he exclaimed. ‘Someone caught it for us in the Danube. She thought we would eat it but I could see a better use straight away, don’t you think?’

He turned the painting to her. The fish had been trans­formed into a kaleidoscope of colours, laid on a green table cloth under a window. Outside, the sky was painted red.

‘It is a picture of the Devil himself!’ he exclaimed wildly.

‘But where can you show that Josef?’ she pointed out. ‘You’ll have to find a private buyer who’ll hide it away.’

‘Nonsense! Böckl had blue trees in a gallery on the Karntnerstrasse the other day and nothing was said. If Böckl can get away with it, so can I. ‘

‘So you’re copying his style are you?’ she said playfully.

‘Don’t be ridiculous Ellie. That fellow…’ And then he realised she was teasing and shut up. "

Interrogating Ellie

Do you want to find out more about art under the Nazis? Wikipedia has a good page on 'degenerate art' and Thomas Weyr's The Setting of the Pearl is a detailed, very readable account of cultural policy under von Schirach in Vienna during the Nazi period.



Josef Dobrowsky

Josef Dobrowsky

Painting by Dobrowsky

Painting by Dobrowsky

Painting by Böckl

Painting by Böckl

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