In The Burning Child (2018), renowned art historian Joseph Leo Koerner confronts the mysteries, personal and historical, of a painting by his father, the artist Henry Koerner. The painting depicts the younger Koerner’s grandparents safe in their living room in Vienna, just before they disappeared during the Holocaust. To answer the questions embedded in the painting, including the fate of Koerner’s family and home, The Burning Child explores Vienna’s passion for homemaking and interior design—the triumph of the city’s revolutionary architects, artists, and thinkers. Unearthing in Vienna the roots of the “modern” home, the film also traces the catastrophe unleashed by Hitler’s annexation of Austria and the destruction of Jewish Vienna.
The screening is followed by a conversation between Joseph Leo Koerner and David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Initiatives, about the film and Henry Koerner’s practice as an artist, including his paintings in the Whitney’s permanent collection.
Joseph Leo Koerner is the Thomas Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Senior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1958, he was raised there and in Vienna.
Runtime: 115 minutes
Tickets are required ($10 adults, $8 members, students, seniors, and visitors with a disability).
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