Anna Mahler Sculpture

Notes on stone

“I grew up amongst the battles and the scandals of the cubists, the constructivists, the dadaists and all the other similar movements that then were really new , provocative, and revolutionaries. As a child I spent hours sitting in Oskar Kokoschka’s atelier, watching him paint. Schoenberg and Alban Berg were intimate friends of my mother, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel became my step fathers.. Everything was new and interesting to me, but when I started to work it wasn’t new to me any more; I decided to find my own way. The important thing was to try to express what I could, I wanted, had to say.”  Anna Mahler 

The extraordinary life of the sculptor Anna Mahler, the daughter of composer Gustav Mahler and Alma Schindler, “muse of last century”. 

The life of Anna Mahler skims over those of great writers, intellectuals, psychologists, and musicians that lived then in Vienna. It passes through two world wars – from the end of the Hapsburg Empire, to the annexation of Austria to Germany. These are years in which Anna takes sides against Nazi fascism, leaving Vienna forever. Having moved to London, then to Los Angeles and on to Spoleto, Anna always restarted from the beginning, with a new studio, works to make, and fresh ideas. 

Spoleto is where she always returned. A dot on the map, a reference point for her life and work. From 1969 to 1987 Anna plunged into the town’s precious artistic culture and life, becoming a ‘Spoletina’. Her daughter, Marina Fistoulari Mahler, talks about this in the film Notes on Stone. In her stream of consciousness, she retraces the main stages of her mother’s life, a ‘viking’, whose wounds and unhappiness can only be healed by the strength of the stone sculptures to which she dedicated her life. Anna’s goal is not self-aggrandising fame; she aims at a recognition that would allow her to produce ever bigger works, monumental or gigantic, and in this frame of mind she relates them to landscapes or mountains. Her vision is influenced by the music and the memory of her father, whom she would always try to find again. As with a mandala, she sculpts and destroys many of her father’s portraits, never satisfied with his image fixed in stone.

In the story, Marina’s bond with her mother becomes a bright fresco, a lucid visual memory – it digs in those past days, which were looking at the future. Anna Mahler is a woman who anticipates our time: she announces it. She was an independent woman, free and different from the models of her time; also different from her mother Alma, from her dominant disposition. She chose to live a more secluded life, away from the social life of her milieu.

Searching in the Mahler family archive, the documentary reveals the works of an artist unknown to many, whose sculptures were partly destroyed during the Paris bombing of WWII, and which are the result of her deep meditation on abstraction and stylization. For Anna Mahler, art is the all-encompassing element, a primary need that makes life bearable, that gives meaning to her whole existence.