Tilla Durieux

Tilla Durieux

1880 (Vienna, Austria)–1971 (Berlin)

Seldom has a theater life been more dramatic, entangled in the luster and squalor of Central Europe, from the Belle Epoque and two world wars to the narrower cultural universe of West Germany. Durieux' roots – embedded in an old Austrian kaleidoscope of cultures – were of Viennese, Croatian and French origin. Successful as a young actress, she won European fame as 'Salome' in Oscar Wilde's scandalous play, and had glamorous portraits of herself painted by Stuck, Corinth and Renoir but also by the young Viennese artists Kokoschka and Max Oppenheimer. During her marriage to Paul Cassirer, a dealer of modern art in Berlin, she ran a brilliant household – until 1926, when it ended in his tragic suicide.
Driven into exile in 1933 with her third husband, a Jewish industrialist, she bravely lived a completely different life devoid of glamour: as a hotel director in Croatia, later as a seamstress with the Zagreb Puppet Theater. In 1941, her husband was arrested by the German occupiers and later murdered in a concentration camp.
In spite of this, she returned to Germany in 1952, where she finally became a legend. For the public, she was a bridge which connected the "ahistorical" Federal Republic with that glamorous culture which was destroyed in 1933.