Martha Brünner Happy Days 1905

Half portrait, body turned to her left, head facing the viewer, looking at him directly. The young lady wears her brown hair pinned up and is wrapped in a pink silk cape, which leaves her shoulders free and which she holds together with her left hand in front of her chest.

JQAW# P_1905_050
Oil on canvas 75 x 58 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams. Happy Days!
Private collection Austria
Image: ©PhotoPam

Martha Beatrix Brünner, née Burian, 7.7.1889, Gloggnitz, until ?? (dates unknown).
Martha Burian, daughter of a lawyer, married (date unknown) the industrialist son (production of petroleum lamps) Alexander Ferdinand Karl Brünner (1883-1974). Her sister Agathe Karoline B. (1887-1916) married (date unknown) Richard Hanno Ferdinand Brünner (1888-1962), a double marriage of the siblings of two families, which was not uncommon in Vienna at the turn of the century.

Family ties within and between the two Burian and Brünner families, as well as the acquaintance/friendship with John Quincy Adams and his family, were likely close, as evidenced by press reports of joint participation in Künstlerhaus festivities (such as in 1909 where members of the Sobotka [Adams married Stefanie Sobotka in 1901], Burian, and Brünner families costumed as staff and patients of an ancient Egyptian santorium in Luxor). The dedication "Happy Days!" on the portrait likely refers rather to these common, fun experiences and not to an affair between painter and sitter. This is further confirmed by the fact that Adams also portrayed Betty Brünner (1906, see cross-references) and Leopold Brünner (1907, lost) in-laws of Martha B. The connection between Martha Brünner and John Quincy Adams continued, as Adams portrayed her again in 1923 (see cross-references), making Martha Brünner one of the few people Adams portrayed several times outside of his family and the imperial family. It is likely that the shared enjoyment of sports (Martha Brünner was a passionate horsewoman and golfer, while Adams was, among other things, a professional fencer, mountain tourer, sailor, skier, and also played golf) led to this long-lasting friendship.

Stylistically, "Happy Days" is far ahead of its time of origin (1905). The rembrandesque dark hues, the only sketchily executed cape, which was subsequently structured by expressionist brushstrokes, and the flat, dark color background refer to Adam's portrait style in the 1920s. A contemporary counterpart is the portrait of Ida Lichtenstern Kohn Nauss ca. 1907.Compared to other portraits by Adams before World War I, both portraits, likely made outside a formal commission, are more "modern" and groundbreaking, which also accounts for their special appeal.


Betty Brünner 1906 (mother-in-law)

Ferdinand Brünner 1907 (father-in-law), lost.

Martha Brünner 1923

Ida Lichtenstern Kohn Nauss ca. 1907


1905 Künstlerhaus Vienna (EL 48 1904/05 #3457, there referred to as portrait sketch, but attribution uncertain).

1986 Academy Schillerplatz Vienna 1986, Viennese Society in Portrait, Catalog No. 12


Schaffer/Eisenburger 1986, exhibition catalog #12 (no ill.).

APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, p. 73, cat.#42 (no ill.).


Family Brünner Vienna. Unknown.
Private collection Austria, and family descendants.