Gertrude Bernoudy; International Figure in Art, Architecture

Article excerpt

Gertrude Tournofsky Bernoudy, a figure in international art circles from the 1930s to the 1950s and widow of a well-known St. Louis architect, died Sunday (April 3, 1994) at her house in Ladue. She was 79.

Mrs. Bernoudy was born into a well-to-do banking family in Prague, in what is now the Czech Republic, and grew up there. When she was in her early 20s, she married an American, Harry Lenart.

Her marriage to Lenart was short-lived, although he and Mrs. Bernoudy remained friends. After their divorce, she returned to Europe and lived there until shortly before World War II began.

It was during that time in Europe that Mrs. Bernoudy met some of the great figures of 20th-century art - artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and Marino Marini - and became friends with them.

When she returned to the United States, she was associated with the influential art dealer Curt Valentin, whose gallery specialized in pre- and post-war European sculpture and paintings by such artists as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Paul Klee. After Valentin's death, she arranged for the shows he'd scheduled to go on and organized catalogs for them.

It was after Valentin's death that she met the man who would be her second husband, William Adair Bernoudy. He was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and by the mid-1950s had a successful architecture practice.

Mrs. Bernoudy was a great teller of stories, although the details changed from time to time. Washington University architecture professor Jim Harris recounted this version of the story of how the Bernoudys met:

In the 1950s, Mrs. Bernoudy decided to build a house and was shopping for an architect. She had gone to California to talk to Richard Neutra, who had enraged her by putting down the Czechs. Neutra was Viennese.

On her way back to New York, Mrs. Bernoudy saw pictures in a Town and Country magazine that featured a house in St. Louis County. She loved the house and declared that Bernoudy was to be "her" architect. When she finally met him at a dinner party here, she fell in love not only with his architecture but with him as well.

The Bernoudys were married in the mid-1950s and remained so until Bernoudy's death in 1988. …