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Dorota Kudelska

John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin



The article presents the contexts in which two important modern art organisations in Vienna (Wiener Secession, Hagenbund) presented strictly religious works of art, paraphrasing biblical motifs based on non-canonical interpretations. At the Wiener Secession, the works of well-known old artists on this subject (e.g. Rubens) were exhibited from time to time, featuring special interior arrangements. Exhibitions were also shown where the subject of the paintings, mosaics, stained glass windows and sculptures used a modern language to present the heroes of the Old and New Testaments, also presenting liturgical equipment and architectural designs of chapels and churches. The first large exhibition of this type was the exhibition of Benedictine monks from Beuron (1905), and then the exhibition of Christian art and handicraft, organised by the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Christliche Kunst at the turn of 1925/1926. The authors of the texts in the catalogue of this second exhibition pointed to the necessary direction of revolutionary artistic changes in the interior furnishings of the church, believing that without the connection of art in temples with contemporary, innovative aesthetics, it would not be possible to propagate Christian ideas. They also noticed the necessity of aesthetic and religious education of the faithful, which was to lead to the acceptance of modern forms in church art.

            In Künstlerbund Hagen (Hagenbund), apart from occasional works related to Christian topics, interesting exhibitions of old religious art were organized twice: in 1929 – an exhibition of icons from the twelfth and seventeenth centuries from the USSR, and in 1933 – an exhibition of Austrian Gothic sculptures, as part of the Katholikentag. Both of these carefully prepared events were clearly, although in different ways, related to politics, as discussed in the article. The forms of icons and Gothic sculptures corresponded to the aspirations of modern art: two-dimensionality and the dramatic – sometimes aggressive – primitivisation of expression.

Although the presentation of works that were religiously involved was not a part of the programme assumptions of the Wiener Secession and Hagenbund, the meeting of conservative ideas with modern artistic trends gave creative effects, in opposition to the “saccharine sweetness” of official church art.

Keywords: Wiener Secession, Hagenbund, Beuron School, modern religious art, politics


The artists gathered in the Wiener Secession and the Künstlerbund Hagen (Hagenbund) created environments and places open to modernity, both in art forms and in customs, often at the then borderline of scandal. Of course, changes took place in both associations between 1898 and 1938 regarding the programme, membership rules, organisation and financing of exhibitions. Generally speaking, after the closing of “Ver Sacrum” (1903) and the departure of Klimt’s group (1905), the Wiener Secession presented a stream of art that was less challenging to the audience and less irritating to the authorities than Hagenbund’s repertoire. The reverse process was taking place in the subsequent exhibitions of the latter group, shown in the Zedlitzhalle, and the radicalisation of the exhibition of the formally experimental works ultimately led to the “homelessness” of Künstlerbund Hagen in 1912, which, however, continued to work.[1]

Of course, purely religious art related to Christianity or biblical topics[2] did not belong to the main trends exhibited in either of the galleries. However, frequency of presentation is not the only determinant of its rank. It is worth looking at the effects of the meeting of an innovative attitude challenging artistic habits with conservative ideology and proposals for changes in church art stuck in conservative academism. This subject matter appeared at the Vienna exhibitions in the years 1898–1933 in various contexts and intensities, and from time to time both associations organised very important exhibitions of religious art in line with the “spirit of the present day”. It should be mentioned that the source material, in the form of catalogues from individual exhibitions, is not full; some catalogues for the exhibitions of the Wiener Secession and Museum für Kunst und Industrie are missing. Either they were not printed (which happened sometimes), or they did not survive in any of the Vienna libraries.[3] For the exhibitions of religious art in Vienna, the first stepping stone was the year 1905 and the presentation of Beuronese works, the second was the year 1918, when the political system had changed, as had the church/state relations, and the third was the Katholikentag in 1933, when the social mood and political instrumentalization of art were already a foreshadow of the coming tragedy.

In general perception, modernity is by definition set in opposition to religion/Christianity, and yet the continuity of spiritual and intellectual traditions has never been completely broken. In the years 1898–1914, the Bible appears in several contexts, but at the Hagenbund’s (own and guest) exhibitions, motifs derived from it appear only sporadically during that time, while the Secession catalogues allow us to identify certain trends. Paintings on this subject presented then were mostly not intended for worship. It is first and foremost a point of unrestricted cultural reference, the basis of universal concepts and values ​​(not only in the aspect of their rejection). New, difficult existential questions were directed towards fundamental texts, and references were made to high culture. Secondly, religious topics before 1918 were combined with generic scenes from the life of the people (places of worship, prayer and rituals), giving it the appropriate national touch. Thirdly, there were special exhibitions, mostly or entirely devoted to old or contemporary religious art. At the Secession exhibitions, retrospections were introduced, and old art was shown in surprising contexts, for example Rubens (Christ in the House of Simon, Esther, Ahasfer), Tintoretto and El Greco among the works of association members or surrounded by works of other artistic groups, such as at the Entwicklung des Impressionismus in Malerei und Plastic[4] exhibition. Typically, such exhibitions were guest shows of private collections, occupying a part of the exhibition space. Of course, original subjects related to the religions of Japan, China and other parts of Asia were also presented in a similar manner, which was characteristic of the symbolic syncretism that had been developing since the 1880s until World War I.[5] Objects of worship were shown not only as an example of exotic artistic craft, but, as can be judged from exhibition photographs and descriptions, they were also included in stylised arrangements of temples. Such exhibitions did not take place at the Hagenbund, where one can see the dominance of a different exhibition profile (there were fewer literary, and therefore biblical, themes). However, in both cases (before 1914), biblical images dispersed among other works shown were often associated with breaching moral taboos. For example, in Gustav Klimt’s Judith (Wiener Secession 1903), the distance to modernity is greater, there is no attack on the customs of the clergy as in Egon Schiele’s Cardinal and Nun (Hagenbund 1912), where, Wally Neuzel, the artist’s friend, appears as a nun. In the Hagenbund, the permission for formal expressionistic experiments was greater, but it was the Beuronese, during the exhibition at the Secession, who included ethnographic references, sometimes ambiguous in relation to the violence of Christianisation [figs. 1–2].


For the most part, we don’t know whether the works with religious themes presented at that time were intended for church interiors, if, of course, it was possible to determine exactly which ones (catalogue entries are incomplete and there are relatively few reproductions[6]). The form of some of them certainly does not exclude it (e.g. Uhde’s Jesus’ Sermon on the Lake or Böcklin’s Pieta). The least doubtful in this respect are the stained-glass windows (almost always presented as pastel competition designs for a specific temple or as glass models) and church plans, sometimes created by such Viennese giants as Otto Wagner.[7] It is worth mentioning that Polish stained-glass designs were repeatedly exhibited in Vienna (Mehoffer, Uziębło[8]), and Stanisław Wyspiański was particularly appreciated in the field by local critics.[9]

The Wiener Secession exhibitions most often featured Christological representations, less frequently in the original iconographic and formal presentation [fig. 3]; usually only the Virgin Mary is shown in such context (Escape to Egypt, Pieta). Sometimes, religious themes were undertaken by artists known today for a completely different repertoire. In several exhibitions, works referring to the Passion of Christ were shown by the leftist Constantin Meunier, associated mainly with images of workers at work. The artist exhibited, among others Ecce Homo and the bronze bust of Christ [10] [fig. 4]. Reliefs with a passion theme were also presented by Alexander L.M. Charpentier.[11] Threads linking Christianity with socialism were present almost from the very beginning of the exhibitions at the Vienna Secession. Examples include the illustrations of Franz Skarbina for the novel by Max Ketzer Das Gesicht Christi. Roman aus dem Ende des XIX. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig 1896).[12] According to the naturalistic stylistics of the novel, the Christ shown in these drawings – elegantly dressed and with Semitic features – walks through the districts of Berlin on Good Friday, unrecognised by passers-by. Both types of presentation, both the respectful and pitying image of the martyred body of Jesus deprived of signs of divinity (contrary to the academic ideal of beauty), as well as the one where the physical and spiritual condition of Christ makes him contemporary (without belittling his role in history), are derived from Renan’s positivist thought and the esoteric conception of Schuré’s history. Among the saints, those featured particularly often in the exhibited works include Saint Sebastian (always with the smooth beauty of a semi-naked ephebe) and Saint Francis. The Old Testament threads, other than those relating to Adam and Eve in paradise, were relatively rarely shown[13] [figs. 5–6]. We can list many examples of sculptures on this subject, for example those made by Hermann Hahn, August Rodin, Ville Vallgren and Xawery Dunikowski.[14] Most often, only the titles showed a relationship with the Old Testament, because the figures depicted did not have the proper attributes. Iconographically, through the nudity of perfect bodies and their poses, they resembled the heroes known from the classic Greek tradition and from Rome. Not infrequently, these works showed the sadness and existential loneliness of imaginary characters.

In painting during this era, the Garden of Eden is a frequent motif, which as a painting archetype has long ceased to be only a reference to the biblical garden. In its version from the late 19th century, it is an ideal land, a locus amoenus, where naked or semi-naked, most often male, figures in antique style garments, positioned in groups, are elements of allegorical statements on history, philosophy or science, often in a monumental form. Such a metaphorical method of presenting ideas, of course, has a theological and historical basis in Rafael’s Dissertation, but around 1900 the Greek-Roman antiquity played a much greater role in this kind of composition, finding voice not only in costumes but also in the syncretic combination of Christian and pagan ideas, fusing paradise with Akademos’ grove.[15] The preference for such scenes means that in the case of many works exhibited at the Wiener Secession and Hagenbund exhibitions – in the face of ignorance of the original and the lack of reproduction – we cannot state with certainty what they represented, for example in the case of Im Paradies by Heinrich Zügl, a painter rarely mentioned today, known mainly for genre-animal themes.[16] This group also includes Max Klinger’s monumental painting Christ on Olympus,[17] a work that aroused great interest. It was shown at the third Secession exhibition in a separately opening room. A reproduction of the painting advertised the exhibition – it was placed on the cover of the catalogue, which devoted a two-and-a-half-page commentary to the painting by Paul Kühn, who later became the author of the artist’s monograph. Kühn wrote that Christianity is a natural consequence, the next phase of the history of the gods, continuously narrated by humanity since ancient times. All of them were treated seriously as some point – as religiously important deities. According to Kühn, the adoption of aesthetic forms from the ancient-classicist repertoire naturally created a place for meeting religion – in a literal and symbolic sense. This combination of themes seems to be embodied in a later, now unknown multiform painting Götterdämmerung [Twilight of Gods] by Otto Friedrich.[18]

Until 1914, particularly numerous (among the works of the authors of all the nations participating in the Wiener Secession exhibitions) were paintings presenting folk forms of worship with an ethnographic-genre character. In their volume, they referred to various forms of religiosity: Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. Over the years, the preferences in painting for geographical regions have changed, with time becoming more and more distant from the local centres (in Polish painting it was Podhale and Tatras, Podole, Ukraine, Hutsulshchyna). The choice of topics and the form of description also changed. Decorative representations of customs focused on the exoticism of religious holiday traditions and the feast of shimmering patches of costumes were being gradually left behind. Figures started to appear who were lost in thought, motionless, or crossing mountain pastures, described in various varieties of Post-Impressionism. Finally, the paintings and sculptures of educated artists started to reference simple, rough forms from folk art; the shapes characteristic of folk painting on glass, saints from roadside shrines (Pensive Christ, Crucifixion) were especially popular. In this modern perception, the expression of primitive folk forms met with the expression of formally awkward early Gothic shapes (especially in sculpture). Such difficult reflections on the meaning of passion themes were most often shown after 1920 in the Hagenbund (e.g. Hans S. Becker, Procession/Crucifixion, 1930).

The fact that issues related to religious art were indeed important in the Wiener Secession and Hagenbund is supported by the important exhibitions entirely focused on religious art in connection with modernity. At the 24th exhibition of the first of these associations (November/December 1905), a proposal for comprehensive, modern church equipment was shown. Its prevailing part featured works by the Benedictines from the monasteries in Beuron, Prague and Monte Casino as well as other artists influenced by the aesthetics of Peter Lenz (monastic name – Desiderius).[19] A Dutch painter and later a monk himself, Willibrord (Jan) Verkade, cooperated with this charismatic German monk from the very beginning. He brought well-known contemporary painters to this circle – through repeated retreats and study visits, with whom he became friends during the days of the Pont-Aven school, e.g. the Dutch: Jan Stuyt, Piet Gerrits[20] as well as Marianna Stokes, Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier. The Beuronese and their acolytes were placed for the exhibition in the main hall and in the largest room no. I (with an apse and two large niches). The international room no. II was intended for artists presenting different styles. This room featured works showing “realistic” figures in a way already worked out in the Renaissance (e.g. Fritz von Uhde’s Jesus Christ), symbolist, although also using the realist’s tools, but in the mysterious juxtaposition of persons and objects, often in unusual lighting (e.g. Rudolf Jettmar [fig. 7], Marianna Stokes, Paul A. Besnard[21]), and works not directly related to the trend initiated by Lenz, but very close, parallel to his recommendations. Undoubtedly, such values ​​could be found in Jacob’s Dream by Paul Gauguin, exhibited at that time. The remaining spaces (room III, the small room IV and a corridor) were occupied by the works of artists associated in Munich’s Deutsche Gesellschaft für Christliche Kunst, where the influence of the Beuronese could also be seen. The exhibition represented all fields of art: painting, sculpture (including castings and religious items), stained glass, mosaics [fig. 8], architectural sketches and handicraft, among others by Charles R. Ashbee. His presence was a consequence of the contacts of the Viennese Kunstgewerbeschule with the English Arts & Crafts movement.[22]

The exhibition catalogue contains an unusually extensive introduction to the Wiener Secession by Richard von Kralik.[23] This writer and critic (of literature, music and art), known not only in Vienna, analyses the relationship between religion, a temple as a place of worship, and art. The text is almost entirely devoted to the Beuronese. In accordance with their principles, the author postulates the need for such an arrangement of the church’s interior that would foster the mystical concentration of the faithful. Apart from architecture itself, Kralik attributes the greatest role to monumental painting – due to artistic aspects and the possibilities of influencing viewers. The author points to the fundamental significance of Peter Lenz’s theory and practice as the basis for contemporary changes in art, which he sees as positive. The most important, style-forming basis of harmony in Lenz’s theory, developed over many years, is two-dimensionality and the numerical measure of the proportions of elements. Obeying this unifying rule, it is possible – according to Kralik – to create a good combination of not only different styles, but also designs of decorations from different times and religions, including pagan ones, to learn contemplation from them, directly using them for the service of Christian spirituality. Quite imprecisely, without indicating the fields of application, the author particularly appreciates archaic Greek art and the art of ancient Egypt. Their simple, synthetic form embedded in two-dimensionality separates us from the earthly, “simple beauty of objects”. Kralik, in accord with the Beuronese, believes that art should strive to create a mystical reality, instead of recreating the physicality of man and everyday reality (which is based on the classical aesthetics of Greece, its modern reception and elaboration). The symbolic depth was carried (at least in theory) by the asceticism of form and reference to the symbolism of the East – Byzantium and other cultural circles, where the symbolism of gold was particularly important. Similar elements are also legible in Western early medieval art, which modernity picks up on. Therefore, as Kralik claims after Lenz, it is necessary to re-arrange the interiors to get rid of the “spatial virtuosity” of baroque paintings that have taken over Catholic churches, because they really only speak about the matter of the world, instead of leading to mystical elation. The canon laws are “principles of divine creation and should be tools of artistic activity. Only when using these tools of God, using them as the leitmotiv of creative activity, does contemporary art deserve to be called creation. The artist’s task is to restore the world’s purity and show people the truth in a painting”.[24] The mystical truth of Christianity was, according to Lenza, to be revealed thanks to the art based on the search for perfect geometrical proportion. Hence the taste for Egyptian and even Persian art, which the author of Ästhetik, Geometrie und kirchliche Kunst syncretically linked with neo-Platonic ideas, among other things. The spiritual community was also to translate into a community creating works – especially monastic wall paintings – as evidenced by the decorations of Monte Casino, the most important Benedictine monastery, presented at the exhibition[25] [figs. 9–13]. The authorship of all works was described as “Beuroner Schule”; the lack of names of monks creating individual works testifies to the subordination to the group and the return to the medieval anonymity of the artist. The St Benedict’s monastery was the first to spread the standards propagating the Platonic understanding of beauty combined with good, which is emanated by gold – the symbol of divine truth. The artist’s goal is to influence emotions through the scale and harmony of works, which was achieved by the hierarchy of mysterious, symbolic forms unified by the power of mathematical proportions. The synthesis of historical elements in the architecture, painting and furnishing of temples created – in the intention of the artists – a timeless whole that is as far from sensuality as possible. The simplification of forms and the nobility of the material were supposed to favour mystical contemplation. The assumption of the rawness of the painting style, despite the rejection of sensuality, however, was often only theoretical, because decoration was sometimes very detailed and impressive.

The exhibition presented Maurice Denis’s Adoration [fig. 14]. This painter, associated with French neo-Catholicism, just like Sérusier visited Beuron many times (from 1895).[26] Denis’s painting confirms his great respect for the classic ways of building the balance of a flat composition, based on numerical division, and the symbolism of gold as a colour.[27] The artist created a kind of religious metaphor that at various stages “drifted away” and “moved closer” to the Beuron style as a kind of religious and cultural phenomenon. Father Desiderius’ rules were strictly observed only in his native Rhineland, while many Dutch and French artists combined them with their own experiences and convictions about the essence of the creative process. The strength of the Beuron school was its multidimensional character, the artists associated with it were also craftsmen (goldsmithing played an important role). Team-made decorations of church interiors combined motifs and forms of Gothic art, Byzantine art and art nouveau, which, along with wall painting, found its way into the churches and monasteries of Europe.

The works of Józef Mehoffer (designs of stained glass windows and Wawel paintings) were shown at this exhibition along with the works of the Beuronese [fig. 15]. He was the only Polish artist there and thus he presented a larger number of works (23 pieces) compared to others.[28] Certainly not all of the formal features of his works (also including the designs presented during this exhibition) can be reconciled with the pursuit of the Beuronese’ synthetism. Despite all the simplifications, there is here sometimes too much vital asymmetry and the unpredictability of plant shapes. However, Mehoffer’s works attracted the attention of Viennese critics, and they were appreciated for their interesting, modern form.[29] The relationship between the style of some of Mehoffer’s works and the simplifications of form typical in the trend initiated by Lenz undoubtedly deserves attention not only in the context of the designs of wall paintings for the Wawel cathedral shown at the exhibition, but also because the artist after years returned to similar solutions in the decoration of the church in Turek (design and unfinished decoration 1932–1939).

The exhibition of the Beuronese was the last important truly artistic event associated with religious art in Vienna before the First World War.[30] The religious art exhibition at the Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie in 1912 had a different, distinctly commercial character.[31]

After 1918, the political and organisational conditions in which all of the Viennese artistic organisations found themselves clearly changed. There were many willing to take power, political parties (from communists to extreme right) had armed militias, which led to fratricidal street fights, fires, hunger and disasters the likes of which the city had not experienced during the war. It is well known, in the biographies of the artists and people involved in art and culture, that after 1933 political views became important issues, even dramatically important.[32] In the years 1914–1918, galleries and museums in Vienna operated within the pre-war organisational framework (though with some limitations). Later, both old and emerging institutions and organisations created by the artists themselves sought new ways of defining their social, national and political identity in the radically changed borders and ethnic structure of the country.[33] Until the mid-1920s, many exhibitions were organised in whole or in part devoted to the war.[34] Dramatic experiences radically changed the repertoire and forms presented at exhibitions at the Wiener Secession and Hagenbund. The previous biblical motifs binding the characters Salome and Judith with modernist misogyny, so to say, no longer appear. In general, Old Testament themes became rare. The most frequent were Christological motifs and the figures of saints, especially Saint Francis.­ Among the paintings associated with Christian iconography presented individually at the Hagenbund exhibitions, the Blue Madonna (Madonna in front of the City, 1921) by Carry Hauser (shown in the year it was painted and at the 74th exhibition in 1925) deserves to be mentioned. The painting resembles the poetics of Chagall’s works with figures hovering above the cities. In the reviews of the exhibition, the painting was only slightly criticized, although earlier this lyrical scene gathered negative reviews not only in the press, but also from casual viewers.[35]

The exhibitions presented in the Wiener Secession, both in-house and those of other associations, featured works with religious themes originating from authors who rarely undertook such topics. For example, in 1923, the Münchener Neue Secession collections were shown, including six tempera paintings depicting saints by Anton Faistauer and paintings with religious motifs by Karl Caspar and Ferdinand Kitt.[36] Two large groups of illustrations for the Bible were presented at two subsequent exhibitions. The first was the posthumous exhibition of works by August Brömse (tempera paintings, lithographs and steel engravings),[37] an artist who employed a disturbing expression of a mysteriously empty space in which religious motifs also appeared (e.g. passion motifs). Later, Abel Pann’s series – the Book of Moses (113 works in various techniques) was presented in the Secession building. For the next twenty years, Pann worked – in various graphic techniques and in many stylistic conventions – on variants of Old Testament motifs (the result was the Hebrew Bible series). As one can imagine, the Moses’ Series exhibited at the Secession was the first group of works from this series.[38] Old Testament themes also appeared quite numerously at the representative exhibition of Hungarian art at the Wiener Secession in 1925.[39]

The Ausstellung für Christliche KunstKunsthandwerk, organised at the Secession at the turn of 1925/1926 by the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Christliche Kunst, was a very important event that testified to the interest in religious art and the need to show it.[40] The very carefully prepared catalogue of this exhibition was accompanied by the psalm verse: “Domine dilexi decorem domus tuae”. The volume includes two introductions, both written with zest, critical in the assessments of art, the public and the clergy. The first one was anonymous, the second was signed by Anselm Weißenhofer – a priest and influential art historian.[41] Reproductions included in the catalogue are a testament to the artistic values ​​of the exhibited works, stylistically related to various forms of modern art.

The anonymous author of the first introduction, clearly following in the footsteps of the Beuronese, emphasises the importance of art for all religions, references the Egyptians and the pyramids, the Greeks and the Acropolis, but omits any references to the Benedictines presenting their works. Christianity, which has been developing for centuries has used various styles that were suitable for the given times and meeting the needs of the faithful. Just as every era has its saints, giving testimony to the modern times, according to the rhythms of life and the spirituality of their time, so it also has its own forms of artistry. All these forms are therefore appropriate and equal to each other, despite the passage of time.[42] According to the anonymous author, in the 19th century, the German Romantics “canonized the Gothic” as “the only church style”, but immediately afterwards the Nazarenes propagating it in their painting practice “quickly broke their wings”. And yet – as he argued – the achievements of the Renaissance and the Baroque are also important [fig. 16], they shape the images of cities in the same way as the towers of Gothic churches, for Vienna St Stephen’s Cathedral is as important as the Rektoratskirche St Karl Borromäus. Every early art was modern first, that’s why “the term ‘modern art’ is not used here deliberately as a contrast to old art”. Indeed religious art combines a timeless layer of spirituality and intellectual content with periodic nuances of style, so it is timeless and ultimately universally unchangeable. Among the important trends in the art of the second half of the 19th century, the author of the first introduction mentions realism, plein-air, pointillism, impressionism and expressionism, and it is the latter – in his opinion – that has the greatest spiritual potential, which is the most important for religious art. However, a danger is also indicated here – expressionism can be “wild symbolism”, an “incomprehensible grimace” that no viewer will feel. Then it is just as inappropriate as the “gross materialism” of some of the realists. This aggressive destruction of forms was fuelled by the dramas of war. Fortunately, however, according to the anonymous author, the times of the apocalypse have passed, the world has accelerated towards goodness and the Church should be involved in this train of thought through greater work on spirituality via works of art. Such works of art that bring to the timeless Christian truth enclosed in formal frames the “unofficial individual” elements and truly personal spiritual experiences. These conditions were to be met perfectly by contemporary forms of expressive art. In the message of the text (implicitly addressed to the Church authorities), the author encourages them to trust the artists, let them explain their works and incorporate them in a modern form into the “liturgical movement in the Church” which is “in full bloom”. Drawing from the recent past, the trend, which modern religious art should reference, should also be guided by the principle of functionality (especially in the craft). The possibility of a good choice and trust, however, is based on the knowledge of art and the good taste of those who decide about church decorations – i.e. the clergy, who should understand and appreciate the importance of art to pastoral work. The most important point of this choice is to understand art as an expression of emotions, an individual attitude towards the object of reflection or contemplation.

 The second introduction – Programm und Ziel der Ausstellung von 1925 by Weißenhofer – is a development of the threads from the first part, which, as we can surmise, was also written by him.[43] The opinions expressed here are so critical in their assessment of the artistic sensitivity of the clergy and the majority of the faithful that even today, without suspicion of resentment or anticlericalism, only a priest of great authority, not only in the field of aesthetics, could allow himself to express them. Weißenhofer mentions that work on renewing the liturgy and spirituality, not only religious, is also strengthened by modern organ music and literature (as in the case of visual arts, he does not specify the names of any artists). The exhibition, presenting works for purchase and from private collections, was, according to the author, a great opportunity to overcome the ignorance of modern art both for priests and for the majority of the faithful. Lack of knowledge about old and modern art among the masses of Catholics or – more broadly – Christians is not the result of arrogance, but the fact that “average people have little experience in this” and do not pay attention to spiritual needs, which is not only due to rapid industrialization, but naivety of faith and spiritual laziness (the latter also affects priests). Great pastoral work is needed. We need to make sure, postulates Weißenhofer, that the generations pass on the traditions of high art, which is the basis of good-quality art – demanding Christian art. Although success cannot be expected immediately, the exhibitions and offers of companies cooperating with modern artists who guarantee a high class of church furnishings can reduce the gap between the artists and contracting parties. The Church should be an excellent patron, mediator and commissioner for artists and works of genius inspired by worship, always subjective, but within the Church norms. Lack of taste in decorating the Lord’s house should not under any circumstances be tolerated by the clergy. According to Weißenhofer, in the world, such examples are being made louder and louder, but it is time to embark on a “thorough and systematic change of depraved aesthetic tastes”, take “authoritarian actions because the role of the lay public has faded and failed! The faithful, despite intense educational work, are shy to ask for changes [in the ways of decorating temples]. What is also disturbing is the fact that the voice of the intelligentsia, educated people [in deciding about the purchase of church decorations] is excluded”. This creates a “shocking tear” between true religiosity and the “flaccid backbone and saccharine, ostentatious ‘exemplary’ sweetness of decorations in the consecrated space”. Meanwhile, religious spirituality is demanding! Therefore, “a shepherd should be a leader who marks the path by the power of his office”, although it sometimes causes misunderstandings. An aware priest should, however, strive to raise the taste of the faithful in the name of spiritual development, talk to artists and learn, and discuss the theological interpretation of the works with them. Then it will be possible to choose among the artists a servant of the Lord who is capable of creating a work of art “which, when it is already in the church, does not require too much explanation. It transmits theological content so that the faithful can pick it up or feel it. According to Weißenhofer, the “ominous alienation of artistry and clergy” now leads to the fact that “the clergy simply represents misunderstandings between contemporary artistic expression and the people”. However, this phenomenon has already been slowly overcome – even by the exhibition discussed, where the artists showed works pointing to a spiritual bond with Christianity and fulfilled the liturgical conditions.

This extremely bold critical text concludes with Weißenhofer’s optimistic belief that works similar to those shown in the exhibition and similar educational initiatives will have a beneficial effect. They will allow us to work through contemporary aesthetic problems and make “the art of our time more transparent”, because tasteful furnishings and paintings shown in a holy place will make “a shy eye get used to a new period in art”.[44]

The exhibition presented strictly religious art, but also, as can be presumed from the catalogue entries, works not intended for worship. In three series of rooms corresponding to the announcements in the introductions to the subsequent parts of the catalogue, old and contemporary art was juxtaposed, which was a novelty. An opportunity was created to present craft, painting and contemporary sculpture in the originals and in sketches and photographic documentation. On the basis of the catalogue, we cannot say much about the first series of rooms with old and modern works (rooms I, IV and V); different types of objects were brought together into groups presenting individual workshops (which was a natural advertisement of their artistic possibilities). The second series, ordered thematically and spatially, led to the modern equipped Kapellraum (room II). This complete arrangement of the sacred interior was prepared by Prof. Ferdinand Andri[45] and his students (architectural designs, mosaics, stained glass, wall painting, altar and liturgical vestments). The third part of the exhibition is the Abteilung für åltere Christliche Kunstwerke (room III), which is an exhibition of old art, mostly medieval and early Renaissance sculpture. Among contemporary artists, many from Austria and Germany exhibited their works, which is not underlined in any way in the catalogue. It is noteworthy that the Pan-German ideas were omitted from the catalogue and, as we can conclude on that basis, also from the exhibitions, which would no longer be possible a few years later. In 1925, the Christian art exhibition still managed to connect artists who would soon find themselves on different sides of the national-socialist demarcation line.[46] The catalogue contains 22 illustrations showing all the techniques presented in the exhibition. The most numerous group was sculpture (wood, plaster, metalwork, ceramics, stone, gypsum, metal casts and others), easel painting (oils and tempera), stained glass designs, woodcuts and architectural sketches. Expressionist works were exhibited by sculptors such as Anton Hanak, Ernst Barlach and Josef Furthner.[47] Paintings in this spirit were shown by Albin Egger-Lienz, Aloys Wach, Fernand Kitt and others.[48] Among the classicising sculptures, figures by the then young Karl Bodingbauer are noteworthy.[49] The third trend presented in the rooms of the Secession, mostly involving sculpture, can be described as historicizing, whereas the works included in this group featured elements of the Gothic and Baroque, sometimes peculiarly piled up. Of course, it is not known whether the planned increase in the procurement of artistic works actually took place after the exhibition. However, the form of organisation, the care for the choice of a prestigious place associated with modernity (but no longer with scandals), the selection of artists and contractors[50] gave every reason for it.

After the Ausstellung für Christliche KunstKunsthandwerk, until 1933, there was no exhibition in Vienna devoted exclusively to religious art. In the following years, the artists who had taken part in the exhibition in 1925 still regularly presented single works on this subject (including Ferdinand Kitt, Franz Barvig). Sometimes a series or a dozen such works were shown, e.g. by Hans von Marés (1926), August Brömse (1927), Robert Eigenberg (1930) and the Das Neue Fresco group (a separate exhibition in 1932).[51]

            During the 1920s, Hagenbund was still, and perhaps even more so than it was before 1914, the artistic group in Vienna that was the most open to experiments and arrivals from all parts of Europe. Like other associations, it was struggling with financial difficulties at that time, perhaps even relatively larger because of the leftist views of many group members. In the Hagenbund, goals and provocative aesthetic assessments intertwine with political sympathies. The contemporary faith in a new, wonderful world built in the USSR was risky and even naive from today’s perspective. Meanwhile, the Bolshevik propaganda was extremely efficient, using art as an export commodity; it found fertile ground and sustained the myth of modernity and tolerance of the communist state. Its official art was to be not only modern art but avant-garde art, which did not mean, however, according to propagandists, the destruction of old, even religious art. In spring 1928, Sowjet-Russiche Ausstelleung took place in the Hagenbund, praising the successes of the Soviet economy, which the conservative part of public opinion in Austria received unfavourably.[52] The following year, cooperation continued and in the autumn of 1929, the Soviet Union presented an icon exhibition there: Denkmäler Altrussicher Malerei. Russiche Ikonen vom XII. bis XVIII. Jahrhundert.[53] The exhibition of 131 icons was intended solely as a presentation of the spiritually dead cultural heritage of ancient Russia, Armenia and Georgia.[54] The aim was to convince the public that the treasures of religious culture are thriving in the atheistic state from which they originate. The exhibition was accompanied by a very well-prepared illustrated catalogue (20 reproductions), with two introductions. The first, authored by Anatoly Lunacharsky,[55] is propaganda, but, compared to his other publications, it is not very intrusive in its agitation. The author argues that faith in the existence of God – as the Creator of the World – is linked to the times of ancient barbarism, of course not only in Russia, where luckily this state of blindness has passed. Lunacharsky mentions that the initial confiscation of Church property (and not only that) in the Soviet Union was caused solely by the necessity of their sale for the purchase of grain for the starving masses, and not to fight against hostile ideologies.[56] Nowadays, a modern man can make such use of the sacred art preserved that he has inherited material and musical evidence of an ascension to the spiritual heights (in the scale that was once possible). Thus, according to Lunacharsky, the exhibition is only seemingly ideologically contradictory to the material philosophy of the proletariat. We need to preserve this heritage, not to strengthen the Church (“servant of the former ruling class – religion – has already been dealt with”), but as proof of the aesthetic development of humanity. That is why the country of the proletariat pays for their maintenance and restoration.

The second Introduction, written by Igor Grabar, a professional in the field of iconic painting, was essentially substantive, though not devoid of ideological inclusions.[57] Opinions are repeated about the service of art for the people and only the aesthetic values ​​of icons. Grabar does not introduce iconographic comments or information about the functions of decorations and rituals in Orthodox churches (e.g. about the construction of iconostases) and does not discuss the history of the monasteries and Orthodox churches from which the works originated. He also completely omits the process of spiritual preparation and most of the technical rituals preceding the creation of icons, which undoubtedly served to marginalise the character of eastern religiosity. In the historical context, the author gives the chronology and origin of the objects (which corresponded to the order of the exhibition rooms) and short characteristics of individual painting schools: Pskov, Novgorod, Old-Moscov, Yaroslavl, Tver, Rostov-Suzdal (here he mentions Andrei Rublev), from Vologda and from the Northern Dvina. Grabar also describes the technological stages of creating and maintaining icons and the difficulties in this field, which he provides as an argument for sending only copies of the oldest, most valuable objects from the 11th and 12th centuries. He also emphasises the importance of government-funded preservation of the originals displayed.

This Berlin-Vienna icon presentation was in a way a continuation of several phases of earlier interest in Russian culture in Western Europe (including the art of icons in the Beuronese circle, translations in the Bibliothèque de l’Occident series, Diaghilev’s ballets, the artistic circles of Kandinsky and Russian Jews from the Paris La Ruche). Besides, the show of iconic painting fit with the search for that part of modern art that aspired to the original two-dimensionality of signs and symbols. This exhibition was perhaps the last in Vienna; it might have been naïve, but still an attempt to connect artists through art above political divisions. The 1930s brought major changes in this matter, the economic crisis and fatigue from the inefficiency of democracy caused a sharp rise in nationalist moods throughout Europe. In Austria, the pace of events and political changes was extremely fast.[58] The Wiener Secession and Hagenbund as groups, and their individual members, adapted in different ways to this reality.[59] In this context, the promotion of Christian art in the second half of 1933 coincided in Vienna with particularly restless times.[60]

On September 7, 1933, with a solemn mass in the Rektoratskirche St Karl Borromäus, the Katholikentag began in Vienna. Celebrations were also held at the city stadium and a parade passed throughout the Ringstraße – as in the imperial times – carefully prepared according to the plan of architect Klemens Holzmeister, known and valued in the cultural environments of the capital. It should be noted, however, that this Catholic holiday covering almost the entire city was dangerously close to right-wing politics, secretly or openly nationalist.[61] Of course, among the organisers were also Catholics who had opposite views – such as Holzmeister himself.[62] All of the religiously committed residents of Vienna wanted to cultivate the traditions of their native culture, and Christianity was a natural part of that. Importantly, this concept was used more consistently than Catholicism (contrary to the name of the holiday – Katholikentag), which allowed avoidance of the separation from Protestantism. These events, though differently motivated, had high social support. In addition to mass events, religious art exhibitions were also organised in the Künstlerhaus, the Wiener Secession and the Hagenbund, with cordial opening ceremonies led by Cardinal Dr. Theodor Innitzer. The first of them – Katholische Kunstaustellung Malerei, Plastik, Architektur 1680–1880 – occupied, according to the catalogue (of only 15 pages), the main room and adjacent rooms on the ground floor of the building. In addition to the fields listed in the title, it also included arts and crafts, including furniture and textiles. Particular emphasis was placed on Baroque art as representing the period of Austria’s national power. The Kunsthistorisches Museum organised the Frühe christliche Kunst – an exhibition of early-Christian art from its own collection. The Albertina museum presented the exhibition Maria in der Deutschen Kunst, and the Diocesan Museum the Alte kirchliche Kunst, where paintings, sculptures and crafts from their own resources were exhibited. The exhibition Das Credo in der zeitgenössischen Kunst. Architektur, Skulptur, Malerei der Gegenwart was opened at the Wiener Secession; however, it is not known what works were shown, because its catalogue, if it existed, is not available in Vienna libraries and archives.

            The third of the exhibitions, Mittelalterliche Religiöse Plastik aus Österreich. Ausstellung im Hagenbund in Zedlitzhalle, did not correspond to the announcements made in its title.[63] The cost of transporting and insuring objects that it was planned to bring from all over Austria turned out to be too high, which is why works of various provenance, but located only in Vienna, were shown. This, in turn, led to a second change, expanding the spectrum of the exhibition – not only medieval sculptures were shown, but also other old objects – paintings (including panel paintings), textiles and handicrafts, a total of 121 objects in various techniques (the catalogue includes 46 illustrations, and the descriptions therein are extremely detailed). Franz Kieslinger supervised the qualification and arrangement of the exhibition and was also the author of the introduction for its catalogue. His right-wing views, soon to come into life, were clearly revealed in the introduction.[64] An expert on the art of the Middle Ages, an author of many scholarly publications in this field, he was also an expert at the Dorotheum. Therefore, it seems that we can trust his opinion that rarely shown works were presented during the exhibition, which was just one of its strengths. The exhibition’s concept, thought out in terms of the lighting, the colour and the appropriate iconographic environment, signified its importance to no lesser extent. Kieslinger stressed that he made special efforts to ensure that the textiles and paintings “enlivened the exposition” in all parts divided into “local groups” according to Austrian regions. In these groups, the works were arranged chronologically (the oldest objects came from the beginning of the 12th century, the youngest were dated to 1780). In the message of the short Introduction, the author also emphasises the scholarly qualities of the exhibition. Many sculptures, especially from private collections, were shown in public for the first time, which, as Kieslinger supposed, would make the work of medievalists easier. On the other hand, the wide audience would be able to convince themselves of the exceptional quality of Austrian medieval art, which, according to the researcher, “has its own distinctive language in comparison to other countries”. One could take these words as evidence of “innocent” patriotism, except for the repeated references to the superiority of Austrian art and the memory of the context in which Gothic architecture was invoked in the contemporary right-wing political writings. The Austrian national consciousness in art was to be based, on the one hand, on the medieval Germanic community of language, religion and culture, and on the other hand on the art of the Baroque, representing the time of the country’s greatness. It is not a coincidence that Kieslinger adopted the meaning of Baroque art in the same way as was done in the catalogue of an analogous exhibition at the Künstlerhaus.


            The links between modern art and Christianity were complicated and not always friendly around the year 1900. The reasons for this state were, of course, complex and they continue to this day, e.g. in the large scale of social and philosophical/ideological changes. The artists, aware of their own uniqueness, discussed with the ossified language of theology and office more sharply than others. They also asked of the Bible and saintly advocates of humanity difficult new questions, confronting Christianity with the sacred books of other cultures. Before 1918, the presence of religious subjects at the Wiener Secession and Hagenbund exhibitions, although not a priority, was important; sometimes even exhibitions devoted entirely to it were organised. Paradoxically, it was in the places famous for demolishing conventions and formal taboos that the art of the Beuronese and other artists taking up religious motifs had a larger impact than that shown in the Künstlerhaus or in the churches. First of all, because sacred indignation makes the audience interested. Secondly, because the exhibition was decided based on artistic reasons and openness to modernity of forms, not the artist’s piety and the “nobility” of the subject. Thirdly, the presence of Christian art proves that the disbandment of religion and modernity (in thought and art) was not complete, which also brought good visual effects, although, as we know today, it is quite limited in quantity. Modern art forms, regardless of the subject, generally did not please the general public or the priests deciding about church orders. That is why the presence of religious art, or art taking up biblical and moral issues in the spirit of Christianity, was so important in independent galleries. This gave it a chance to free itself from the dictates of the followers of commonplace church art, accustomed to banally beautiful shapes and the “saccharine” sweetness of Jesus, as Weißenhofer wrote – also parroting without reflection in the litanies. The Beuronese went the farthest in the proposals for reforming church interiors and vestments. They also certainly did not succumb to the idea of ​​Pan-Germanism propagated by Bismarck – they preferred to move to Prague. The strong link between the organisation of exhibitions in 1933 and politics in Austria shows how thin the borders are between caring for the welfare of your own national-religious group and the nationalism that negates the wider Christian community. Tensions between the concerns for religion and national tradition and the political use of this identity were focussed like in a lens in Vienna in the 1920s and 1930s. These mechanisms are still present today, which is why it is worth analysing them.


* This text was created thanks to the following grants: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna: Grant Belvedere / 21er Haus CIR Programme 2015 and Polish Artists in Vienna: Education and Participation in Exhibitions 1726–1938 (Akademie der bildenden Künste, Kunstgewerbeschule, Künstlerhaus, Wiener Secession, Hagenbund, Galerie Miethke and Galerie Pisko), NCN number: UMO-2015/17/B/HS2/01683.

[1] Before 1918, there were statutory and programme differences between these two competing groups, and a difference in their material and administrative situations, much more favourable for the Wiener Secession (it had a mortgage on a building and larger ministerial subsidies). The Hagenbund rented a building from the city at Zedlitzgasse 6, which made the group dependent on the assessment of councillors (who in 1912, having acknowledged the Neukunstgrupp’s exhibition as obscene, took the building from them). It received its own headquarters only in 1920. Hagenbund sought a balance between the requirements of the conservative government administration and the left-liberal attitude, it was less commercial than the Secession, more open to all Austro-Hungarian nations (including Poles after 1918) and attracted artists from all over Europe. Although both galleries were equally often of interest to Austrian and European artistic critics, much more was written in later scholarly publications about the Wiener Secession. Until recently, the Hagenbund was also marginalised in Austrian research. For the Wiener Secession, see L. Hevesi, Acht Jahre Sezession (März 1898 – Juni 1905). Kritik – Polemik – Chronik, Wien 1906; R. Waissenberger, Wiener Secession, Wien–München 1971; J.B. van Heerde, Staat und Kunst. Staatliche Kunstförderung 1895–1918, Wien–Köln–Weimar 1993. First study on Hagenbund: R. Waissenberger, Hagenbund 1900–1938. Geschichte der Wiener Künstlervereinigung, “Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Galerie Belvedere” 16, 1972, pp. 54–130; Sonderausstellung des Historischen Museums der Stadt Wien, exhibition catalogue, 18 Sept. – 30 Nov. 1975, Wien 1975; wider study: Hagenbund. Die Verlorene Moderne. Die Künstlerbund Hagen 1900–1938. Eine Ausstellung der Österreichischen Galerie im Schloß Halbturn, Burgerland, exhibition catalogue, 7 May – 26 Oct. 1993, Konzeption der Ausstellung und Katalog G.T. Natter, Wien 1993. In the years 2013–2015, the Belvedere Museum team, under the Hagenbund grant, developed a distributed group documentation and basic groups of issues related to its activities (e.g. all the exhibitions were counted for the first time). The result of this work was the merger and development of distributed documentation regarding the group’s activities, an international exhibition (Belvedere 2014/2015) and a scholarly publication: Hagenbund. A European Network of Modernism 1900 to 1938, eds. A. Husslein-Arco, M. Boekl, H. Krejci, Wien 2014; P. Chrastek, Expressionism, New Objectivity and Prohibition. Hagenbund and its Artists. Vienna 1900–1938, Vienna 2016.

 [2] By religious art I mean art that was intended for places of worship or individual prayer. By art with biblical/sacral motifs I mean all artistic references to the Bible, theology and iconography, also controversially connected with the dilemmas of existence and the philosophy of a given time; the majority of this type of parareligious/museum/collector’s works have been presented at exhibitions since the 1880s. The Wiener Secession also showed reconstructions of temples of other religions (e.g. Zen) that are not the subject of my analysis.

[3] There are no copies at the Archiv Wiener Secession and the Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst library, or at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek or the Bibilothek Museum Belvedere.

[4] Entwicklung des Impressionismus in Malerei u[nd] Plastik. XVI. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession Wien, Jan.–Feb. 1903, Wien 1903, cat. nos. 2, 3.

[5] The Japanese were also interested in contemporary European culture, especially in Klimt; see J. Wieninger Gustav Klimt and the Art of East Asia, in: Gustav Klimt. In search of the “Total Artwork”, ed. J. Kallir, co-ed. A. Weidinger, exhibition catalogue, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere Wien, Hangaram Art Museum – Seoul Arts Center, 1 Feb. – 5 May 2009, Munich–Berlin–London–New York 2009, pp. 51–59.

[6] For example, in the case of Leon Wyczółkowski’s Christ (Katalog der I. Kunst-Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs, 26 Mar. – 15 Jun. 1898, Wien 1898, cat. no. 4) at least two paintings may be involved: Head of Christ from the National Museum in Krakow and Crucifixion (Wawel Crucifix); the reviews do not make the investigation easier.

[7] Katalog der V. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession, [Nov.–Dec. 1900], [Wien 1900,], cat. no. 237.

[8] Józef Mehoffer: Ausstellung der Vereinigung Polnischer Künstler “Sztuka“, [Vienna, 6 Feb.–Mar. 1908], Wien 1908, cat. no. 99: A stained glass design for the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow; Katalog der Kaiser-Huldigungs-Ausstellung. Hagenbund–Manes–Sztuka, [Vienna, 11 Apr. – 4 Oct. 1908], Wien 1908, cat. no. 68: A stained glass design for the Radziwill Chapel in the Wawel Cathedral. Henryk Uziembło: Katalog der XXIX. Ausstellung des Künstlerlerbundes Hagen, [Vienna, 3 Apr. – 15 Aug. 1909], Wien 1909, cat. no. 33, fig. 1: Early Spring. Made at the Krakow stained glass and glass mosaic factory.

[9] Wyspiański’s designs of stained glass windows for the Lviv Cathedral had already been shown at the 1st Wiener Secession exhibition (Katalog der I. Kunst-Ausstellung… 1898 (fn. 6), cat. nos. 2, 3). The attention of the Viennese reviewers was, however, drawn by his Wawel cartoons (XV. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession Wien, Nov.–Dec. 1902, Wien 1902, cat. nos. 88, 94, 103). It is not accidental that their unusual expression was praised by Franz Servaes, the later promoter of Schiele, even suggesting organising an individual exhibition for Wyspiański in Vienna, which, however, never took place (F.S., Secession, “Neue Freie Presse”, 1902, no. 13, p. 4). Of course, the Austrian reviewers did not address the questions, which were of such important to the Polish critics, as to whether the design is suitable for the interior of the cathedral, or the problem of the relationship between the religious and historical themes.

[10] Katalog der III. Kunst-Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs, Max Klinger “Christus im Olimp”, Const[antin] Meunier van Rysselberghe, 10 Jan. – 20 Feb. 1899, Wien 1899, cat. no. 9: C. Meunier, Ecce Homo (plaster and bronze; currently at the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels), Katalog der XXII. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession, Jan.–Feb. 1905, Wien 1905, cat. no. 12: C. Meunier, Christus, bronze).

[11] Katalog der I. Kunst-Ausstellung… 1898 (fn. 6), cat. nos. 111, 128.

[12] Katalog der IV. Kunstausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs, [Mar.–May 1899], [Wien, 1899], Pult B.

[13] Bolesław Biegas showed David, unknown today, cf. Katalog der VII. Kunst-Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession, Mar.–May 1900, [Wien 1900], cat. no. 55.

[14] For example, IX. Kunst-Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession, Feb. 1901, [Wien 1901], cat. no. 43; Katalog der II. Kunst-Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs, [Nov.–Dec. 1898], Wien 1898, cat. no. 97; Katalog der XV. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession, Nov.–Dec. 1902, Wien, 1902, cat. no. 138.

[15] One of the most popular allegorical presentations of such a theme is the School of Plato by Jean Delvill (1880, Musée d’Orsay) and the Holy Grove or the Ancient Sorbonne, a painting by Pierre-Cecile Puvis de Chavannes (completed 1889, Grand Amphithéâtre de la Sorbonne). The composition of both gardens resembles the form of this kind of conventional space in early Renaissance paintings, but Delvill’s Plato, iconographically characterised as the teaching Christ, placed among naked idealised youths, is an obvious artistic provocation. On the other hand, in de Chavannes’s scholarly garden, the centre is dominated by an allegorical female figure personifying a school, stylised as a Renaissance Madonna, and most of the numerous other figures are women.

[16] Katalog der II. Kunst-Ausstellung… (fn. 14), cat. nos. 97, 99.

[17] M. Klinger, Christ on Olympus, 1890–97, oil on canvas, 362 × 722 cm; until 1938 at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna, now at the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig; P. Kühn, Aufsatz, in: Katalog der III. Kunst-Ausstellung… 1899 (fn. 10), pp. 13–15.

[18] Katalog der IIII. Kunstausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs, Mar.–May 1899, [Wien 1899], cat. no. 35.

[19] Peter (Desiderius) Lenz (1832–1928) – German painter, sculptor, Benedictine (from 1872); studied (from 1849) at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich under the supervision of the Nazarene Peter Cornelius (hence the sensitivity to Catholic religious art). He ran a sculpture studio at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Nuremberg (from 1859); thanks to Cornelius, he received a state scholarship in Rome (1863), where he collaborated with painters Gabriel Würger and Lukas (Fidolin) Steiner; he studied mystical texts of various religions (including Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, India), their forms of worship and art (especially architecture, vase painting, early Christian art, Byzantine art and Giotto). Together with the monk Rudolf (Maurus) Wolter and Würger, they founded a Benedictine monastery (1868). After leaving for Rome (1869), together with Würger and Steiner, he designed the wall paintings for the St Maurus Chapel in Beuron (completed in 1871). In 1872, the artists entered the monastery there, taking monk names: Desiderius (Lenz), Gabriel (Würger, a convert from Calvinism) and Luke (Steiner – perhaps through a relationship with the Brotherhood of Saint Luke). Designed as Gesamtkunstwerk, the St Maurus Chapel is considered the beginning of Beuroner Kunstschule. Lenz was the author of aesthetic treatises and textbooks on painting (along with Würger) promoting the renewal and opening of church art and, more broadly, Christian art to modernity in all areas of creativity. The basis was to be: a perfect proportion of architectural elements (based on the geometry of ideal figures), a return to two-dimensional painting and symbolism of forms derived from other religions, and in music – the human voice and a mathematical construction of chants. The formation of this monastery influenced many artists and outstanding figures of the 19th and 20th centuries (including Edith Stein before she joined the Carmelite nuns); see H. Siebenmorgen, Lenz, Peter, in: Neue Deutsche Biographie, Bd. 14, Berlin 1985, pp. 234–235; H. Siebenmorgen, Die Anfänge der “Beuroner Kunstschule”. Peter Lenz und Jakob Wüger 1850–1875. Ein Beitrag zur Genese der Formabstraktion in der Moderne, Sigmaringen 1983; D. Lenz, “The aesthetic of Beuron” and other writings, introduction and appendixed by H. Krins, afterword and notes by P. Brooke, transl. J. Minihane, J. Connolly, London 2002.

[20] On Dutch Benedictines, see K. Veelenturf, Jan Stuyt, Piet Gerrits, Willibrord Verkade en de School van Beuron, “Deesipientia: zin & waan” 18, 2011, no. 1, pp. 36–43; see also: P. Sérusier, List do Jana Verkade, transl. H. Ostrowska-Grabska, in: Moderniści o sztuce, selected, edited and introduced by E. Grabska, Warsaw 1971, pp. 367–368 (translation based on: P. Sérusier, ABC de la Peinture (suivi d’une corréspondance inédite), Paris 1950 (3rd ed., extended).

[21] Rudolf Jettmar (1869–1939) – Austrian painter born in Tarnów; Marianna Stokes (1855–1927) came from Austria, member of the Pont Aven colony, in her work in England she used folk motifs stylised after the Pre-Raphaelites; Paul A. Besnard (1848–1934) was a conservative artist, stylistically close to Salon paintings.

[22] At the exhibition, Charles R. Ashbee (1863–1942) presented many objects designed by the famous architect, associate of Arts & Crafts: liturgical vessels, book bindings, candlesticks, lamps and “objects for altar boys”. Myrbach, as the director of Kunstgewerbeschule, encouraged students to travel to England, especially to the school at the Kensington Museum, from which many have benefited, including Karol Frycz (L. Kuchtówna, Karola Frycza lata studiów i podróży, “Pamiętnik Teatralny” 48, 1999, nos. 2–4, pp. 109–155) and Henryk Uziembło (Archives of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Personal folder: Henryk Uziembło, BP 3062/32: no. 13: Curriculum Vitae; thanks to Dominika Plewik for information).

 [23] R. von Kralik, Zur Einfüfrung, in: XXIV. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession, Nov.–Dec. 1905, Wien 1905, pp. 3–6.

[24] M. Dreesbach, Peter Desiderius Lenz OSB von Beuron, Theorie und Werk, Müchen 1957, p. 103.

[25] The monastery and the church were completely demolished during the Second World War. The paintings in the reconstructed complex do not resemble the work of the Beuronese in any way.

[26] This comes close to the discussed assumptions of Les Nabis, although to a very different degree. Sérusier repeatedly returns to the concept of symbolism of colour and the mysterious “ideal proportion” of objects, phenomena and elements of art, also in ABC de la peinture. Together with Denis, they published a series of texts in Paris on the spiritual aspects of Eastern art – the Bibliothèque de l’Occident (in the years 1905–1949), one of the first items is: P. Lenz, L’Esthétique de Beuron, traduite de l’allemand par P. Sérusier. Introduction de M. Denis, Paris 1905. Denis has included his introduction to: M. Denis, De Gauguin et de Van Gogh au classicisme, Paris 1909 (also in Bibliothèque de l’Occident). K.M. Kuenzil wrote about the mystical symbolism of Les Nabis, also in connection with Catholicism (The Nabis and Intimate Modernism: Painting and the Decorative at the Fin-de-Siécle, Surrey–Burlington–Vermont 2010), but despite citing a translation of Lenz in Bibliothèque de l’Occident, she does devote a single line to Beuron. On religious motifs in M. Denis’s paintings: A. Reiß, Rezeption frühchristlicher Kunst im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Christlichen Archeologie und zum Historismus, Dettelbach 2008, pp. 179–183. A great synthetic description of the European reception of the works of Lenz and his confreres: C. Rius, Antoni Gaudí: Casa Bellesguard as the key to his symbolism, transl. F. Mazzaferro, Barcelona 2014 (1st ed. 1963): Part III, The Life and work Peter Lenz, pp. 45–84.

[27] H.H. Hofstätter, Symbolizm, transl. from German S. Błaut, Warszawa 1987, p. 123.

[28] XXIV. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession, [Nov.–Dec. 1905], Wien 1905, cat. nos. 3, 4, 16–25, 41–47, 59 a–d.

[29] H. Haberfeld, Religiöse Kunst in der Wiener Secession, “Kunst und Künstler. Illustierte Monatschrift für bildende Kunst und Kunstgewerbe” IV, 1906, Heft 1, p. 169.

[30] As can be judged from the illustrations, the influence of the Beuronese was very distinct, as evidenced by other exhibitions, e.g. Die Ausstellung für Christliche Kunst, Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie, [Sept.–Oct. 1912], Wien 1912.

[31] Ibid.

[32] What is more astonishing today is the lack of any information about the attitudes towards Nazism of many public figures (including artists and antiquarians) in their biographical entries, and the fact that in Austria after the war no legal action was taken even against active NSDAP activists and criminals, although the effects of their actions continue to this day.

[33] After the war, the Wiener Secession and Hagenbund, by virtue of a state order (government proclamation of the Republic of German-Austria of December 12, 1918), redefined the rules of membership. The basic requirements were: Austrian nationality and/or citizenship of the Republic of Austria, which excluded members from former Galicia and Hungary residing in newly-formed states. The Hagenbund, unlike the Secession, did not comply with the regulations restrictively; see O. Rathkolb, “Promotion of Patriotic Artistic Efforts”. The Hagenbund and the Art Policy Framework from the Monarchy to the Chancellor Dictatorship, in: Hagenbund 2014 (fn. 1), p. 15; about the Wiener Secession in this context: D. Kudelska, Dukt pisma i pędzla. Biografia intelektualna Jacka Malczewskiego, Lublin 2008, pp. 537–542. Regarding these specific political contexts, see W.M. Johnston, Österreichische Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte. Gesellschaft und Ideen im Donauraum 1848 bis 1938, Wien–Köln–Graz 1980; M.H. Hacohen, Karl Popper. The Formative Years 1902–1945. Politics and Philosophy in Interwar Vienna, Cambridge 2002; Interwar Vienna. Culture between Tradition and Modernity, eds. D. Holmes, L. Silverman, Rochester–New York 2009.

[34] For example, LIV. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Secession-Wien, I Teil, Apr.–May 1919, [Wien 1919].

[35] In 1924, it was removed from the Galerie Würthle’s window as a result of protests by many passers-by; see O. Rathkolb, “Promotion of Patriotic Artistic Efforts”, in: Hagenbund 2015 (fn. 1), p. 14.

[36] Herbst Ausstellung der Wiener-Secession, [Nov.–Dec. 1923], [Wien] 1923, cat. nos. 4, 14–16, 29, 30 (St Agnes, St Margareta, Christ’s Nativity, St Cecilia, St Notburga, St Katharina); cat. nos. 73, 150. Previously, Feistauer was a member of the avant-garde Neukunstgruppe, alongside Egon Schiele and Anton Kolig.

[37] Katalog LXXXIII. der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession, mit Kollektion Max Slegovt, May–Jun. 1925, Wien 1925; August Brömse (1873–1925) – a German-Czech painter, graphic artist and decorator, he only studied privately. Awarded many times for graphic series at European exhibitions.

[38] Katalog LXXXIV. der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession, Kollektion Abel Pann Jerusalem, Aug.–Sept. 1925, Wien 1925; Abel Pann (1883–1963; real name Abba Pfeffermann) – an outstanding graphic artist and painter born in Lithuania or Belarus. Until 1913 he travelled all over Europe and studied in various places (Poland, Russia, Ukraine); in Paris (from 1903) he studied at Académie Julian with Bouguereau, lived in La Ruche (where he met Chagall, Modigliani, Soutine) and earned a living by selling illustrations to newspapers. He learned the canon of European modern painting. During the First World War, he painted a series of expressive paintings with the theme of violence. In the years 1920–1924 he taught at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem (he brought his wife and lithographic press here from Vienna). From 1924, he made graphics almost exclusively. At the end of his life, he took up the subject of pogroms and also the Holocaust. For information about Abel Pann and portfolios of works with biblical topics, see The Bible (Genesis: From the Creation until the Deluge. Complete Portfolio of 25 Original Lithographs), http://www.artoftheprint.com/artistpages/pann_abel_the_bible.htm [accessed: 12 Dec. 2016].

[39] Az Elsö Budapesten Osztŕak Representative Képzömüvészeti Kiállitás, exhibition catalogue, Nemzeti Szalon in Budapest, 16 May – 14 Jul. 1925, Budapest 1925. Associations which exhibited there: Genossenschaft der Bildenden Künstler Wiens, Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession, Künstlerbund Hagen, Bund Österreichischer Künstler (Kunstschau). Two paintings by Leopold Gottlieb were shown there (cat. nos. 38 and 39).

[40] LXXXVI. Ausstellung der Wiener Secession. Ausstellung für Christliche Kunst – Kunsthandwerk, [XII 1925 – I 1926], [Wien 1925].

[41] Der III. Ausstellung  Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Christliche Kunst zum Geleit, in: ibidem, pp. 4–8; A. Weißenhofer, Programm und Ziel der Ausstellung von 1925, in: ibidem, pp. 12–18. Josef Anselm Weißenhofer (1883–1961) – theologian, priest, Doctor of Art History at the University of Vienna. From 1924 (from 1931 as associate professor), he lectured at the Kunstgewerbeschule, on such topics as Christliches Kunstgewerbe (Christian arts and crafts). As pastor and minister, he worked in the Viennese Schottenkirche, and in the years 1933–1938 at the castle chapel. From 1930 he was a custodian at the Gemäldegalerie des Wiener Schottenstifts, from 1940 he was the director of the Erzbischöfliches Dom- und Diözesanmuseums (Archdiocesan Museum of the Cathedral and the Diocese of Vienna). Biographical entries do not state what his attitude towards Nazism was; he remained in office during the war. From 1947 at the Vienna Akademie der bildenden Künste, he managed the Abteilung Kunsterziehung (Department of Artistic Education). He published: Die ältesten Ansichten der Stadt Wien (Wien 1923), Alt-Wiener Kalender 1924 (Wien 1924); he published further works in the publishing houses Verein für Geschichte der Stadt Wien (he was a member of its board in 1945–1961) and Verein für Landeskunde von Niederösterreich; see F. Czeike, Anselm Weißenhofer, in: Historisches Lexikon Wien, Bd. 5, Wien 1997, p. 607.

[42] This echoes the views of Alois Riegel, denying passing judgement on art, in which the temporal sequence naturally dominates.

[43] The author’s identity can be inferred not only from the style and logic of the arguments, but also from the examples used – Viennese works used in contexts corresponding to those from Weißenhofer’s scholarly works mentioned.

[44] Weißenhofer 1925 (fn. 41), p. 18.

[45] Ferdinand Andri (1871–1956) graduated from the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna (graphic design, painting), during the exhibition he was a professor there (fresco painting), later a vice-chancellor (1938–1939), as a Nazi he chaired the Academy’s appointed board (1939–1945); member of the Wiener Secession (president in 1899–1909; 1905/1906) and Österreichischer Werkbund (from 1912); he published in “Ver Sacrum”. Andri belonged to the Nazi Deutscher Kulturbund (from 1938), he collaborated with Künstlerhaus (from 1939), strongly promoting national socialism. After the war, he lived in a town not far from the capital – Sankt Pölten.

[46] The ideas of the Germanic language-cultural community, always important in Austria, gained ground after 1918, especially in view of the post-war political and economic difficulties of the country, which lost the rank of a European power. Pan-Germanism was a breeding ground for the clearly growing strength of fascism and nationalism starting in the second half of the 1920s. The search for a new state and political identity manifested itself in the capital particularly sharply, intensified by the reaction to the rule of the “Red Vienna”. It should be noted that extreme groups, both right-wing and leftist, shared the desire to remove the pluralism of parliamentary democracy. Various parties were in favour of a merger with Germany.

[47] Anton Hanak (1875–1934) – a student of evening sculpture classes in Vienna, cooperated with the Wiener Werkstätte while a member of the Wiener Secession (from 1906), which was not common. Ernst Barlach (1870–1938) – German sculptor, painter, writer and poet, he was an excellent representative of lyrical expressionism at the turn of the century. After 1918, he created outstanding sculptures with anti-war and existentialist themes. The Nazis took away his membership in the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften, forbade him from practising his profession and considered his work to be so-called degenerate art – most of his sculptures were destroyed. Josef Furthner (1890–1971) – a graduate of the Kunstgewerbeschule.

[48] Albin Egger-Lienz (1868–1926) – Austrian genre and historical painter; initially under the influence of Hodler, he later developed a specific archaizing redaction of symbolism (medieval stylization, especially of human figures). He often depicted scenes from folk life (ploughing, evening prayer, supper in ascetic interiors) and the struggle of the insurgents for Tyrol’s independence (marches with arms, fighting, the fallen). Lienz’s works were often exhibited and propagated by the Nazis after his death. Aloys Wach (Wachelmayr, Wachelmeier) (1892–1940) – Austrian expressionistic sculptor. Ferdinand Kitt (1897–1962) – a graduate of the Vienna Akademie der bildenden Künste, member of the Wiener Secession (from 1919, president 1926–1929); in the years 1928–1944 professor in Wiener Frauenakademie. During the Second World War he was artistically active in Vienna and Munich, which indicates at least a friendly attitude towards the Nazis. However, he signed (along with Josef Dobrowsky, Josef Hoffmann, Ernst Huber, Robin Ch. Andersen) a petition to the region’s authorities regarding the release of friend Ludwig Neumark, which testifies to the ambiguity of his attitude and civil courage. Kitt’s workshop was destroyed in 1949, so after the war he moved to Gschwandt; see, among others: Österreichischer Kunstsenat, http://www.kunstsenat.at/preistraeger/CV/kitt.htm [accessed: 15 Oct. 2016].

[49] Robin Ch. Andersen (1890–1969) – Austrian sculptor, he learned jewellery and engraving, studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule (under A. Hanak, graduated in 1923). Until 1940 he made many decorations in the churches of Lower Austria; during the war he served in the German Wehrmacht (until 1944 in Tyrol); sick, he was released from a French prison (1945); see Karl Bodingbauer, exhibition catalogue, Museumsverein Korneuburg, 2006/2007, Konzept und Gestaltung P. Langhammer, R. Schröpfer, Text H. Paulhart, Korneuburg 2006.

[50] One of them, according to an insert, offering interior furnishings and organ cases, even had a branch in Warsaw: Cäilia, see: LXXXVI. Ausstellung der Wiener Secession… (fn. 40), p. unnumbered (inserts).

[51] 87. Ausstellung der Wiener Secession. Jahrhundertschau Deutscher Malerei, Mar.–Apr. 1926, Wien 1926, cat. nos. 21–24, 28; XCIII. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession. Frühjahrs-Ausstellung mit Gedächtnis-Ausstellung August Brömse, Apr.–Jun. 1927, [Wien 1927], cat. nos. 85–174; CXIV. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession, 8 Nov. – 21 Dec. 1930, [Wien 1930], cat. nos. 1, 5, 10, 14, 18; CXXI. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Wiener Secession, Apr.–Jul. 1932, [Wien 1932], cat. nos. 108, 124, 160, 164, 166, 208–219.

[52] Hagenbund. SowjetRussiche Ausstelleung, March 1928, Wien 1928. Organised by: Gesellschaft für kulturelle Verbindung der Sowjetunion mit dem Aussland and Österreichische Gesellschaft zur Förderung der geistigen und wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen mit der UdSSR.

[53] Denkmäler Altrussischer Malerei. Russische Ikonen vom XII. bis XVIII. Jahrhundert. Ausstellung veranstaltet von Volksbildungskommissariat der RSFSR, dem Künstlerbund Hagen, Wien und der Österreichischen Geselschaft zur Förderung der geistigen und wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen. U.d.S.S.R. In der Raumen Hagenbundes, Sept.–Oct. 1929, Wien 1929. The exhibition was previously presented in Berlin.

[54] As noted by Harald Krejci, this geographical extension probably led to the participation in the exhibition committee of Prof. Josef Strzygowski, who had been emphasising for a long time in publications the prime importance of Armenia in the continuation of the ideas and artistic traditions of Christianity as a forgotten basis for the beginnings of Western Christian civilization; see H. Krejci, Monuments of Old Russian Painting Russian Icon from the 12th to 18th Century, in: Hagenbund… 2014 (fn. 1), p. 218.

[55] A. Łunaczarski, Zum Geleit, in: Denkmäler… 1929 (fn. 53), pp. 5–6. Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunacharsky (1875–1933) – a Soviet philosopher, theoretician of culture and social education. Educated in Zurich, familiar with Europe. From early youth, he was involved in the communist movement, in the years 1917–1929 he was a Bolshevik peasant commissar of education, he established rules and organised the state supervision of children and youth. He was a supporter of radical replacement of family care by social organisations. A new citizen was supposed to be shaped by overcoming illiteracy and the general and state-organised access to cultural goods (of course properly selected and politically explained), as an ideologist he dedicated extensive studies to this cause.

[56] Regarding the actual stages of the robbery, see D. Pospielovsky, The Russian Church under the Soviet regime 1917–1982, St Vladimir’s Seminary, vol. 1, New York 1984; S. McMeekin, Największa grabież w historii. Jak bolszewicy złupili Rosję, transl. Aleksandra Czwojdrak, Kraków 2013.

[57] I. Grabar, Denkmäler Altrussischer Malerei. Russische Ikonen vom XII–XVIII Jahrhundert, in: Denkmäler… 1929 (fn. 51), pp. 9–19. Igor Grabar (1871–1960) – a Russian painter, art historian, lawyer (he graduated in Saint Petersburg in these fields), artistically trained and active in Paris, Rome and Munich. He was a member of the Moscow Mir iskusstva; he co-edited the History of Russian Art (1910–1914, vol. 1–6); he was the director of the Tretyakov Gallery (1913–1925). As a Bolshevik, he supervised the confiscation of church art; he managed the conservation of the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius. During the Stalinist purges he withdrew from politics; after the Second World War he organised the removal of works of art from museums in Germany and other lands occupied by the Soviet Army and their deployment in the USSR. Winner of many state awards.

[58] The Christlichsoziale Partei Österreich, ruling Austria since 1920, was in crisis. Its leader, Engelbert Dollfuß as chancellor and minister of foreign affairs (from 1932) outlawed both the social democratic SPADÖ (February 1933), as well as the Austrian branch of the NSDAP (June 1933). He established the Vaterländische Front (V 1933) and introduced authoritarianism combining Catholic social science and Mussolini’s fascism. He insolently suppressed workers’ rebellions. Dollfuß was killed during a coup (25 Jul. 1934), which initiated a chaotic period in Austria.

[59] The outlawed NSDAP had secret members and very many supporters also among the cultural elite in Austria. This was important when transforming artistic associations and taking over their property, along with establishing racist membership rules and new strategies for planning and organising exhibitions. Immediately after the annexation (or joining – according to some historians) of Austria to the Third Reich, the artists could act only within the framework of the Reichskammer der bildenden Künste, which only accepted “pure Aryans”. There were relatively many members of Jewish origin in the Hagenbund, only Josef Drobner belonged to the NSDAP, which was why the group was dissolved in 1938. In the Wiener Secession and Künstlerhaus as well as in other artistic institutions, there were more supporters of the new power, which is why new management boards were immediately formed from among the members, and then these organisations were merged. On the consequences of the political choices of artists, see E. Klamper, Art in the Service of Power. The Cultural Policy of Austrofascism 1934 to 1938 and the Dissolution of the Hagenbund, in: Hagenbund… 2014 (fn. 1), pp. 349–356; J. Shedel, Art and Identity. The Wiener Secession 1887–1939, in: Secession. Permanence of an Idea, concept O. Kapfinger, ed. E. Louis, exhibition catalogue, Ostfindern bei Stuttgart, Stuttgart 1997, pp. 13–57.

[60] Earlier Katholikentage in Vienna were held in 1877, 1889, 1905, 1907, and 1922. For a synthetic description of the political situation in which the Katholikentag was organised in 1933, see E. Klamper, Art in the Service…

(fn. 59), p. 349.

[61] See. E. Klamper, Die Mühen der Wiederverchristlichung. Die Sakralkunst und die Rolle der Kirche während des Austrofaschismus, in: Kunst und Diktatur. Architektur, Bildhauerei und Malerei in Österreich, Deutschland, Italien und der Sowjetunion 1922–1956, hrsg. v. J. Tabor, Baden 1994, pp. 148–180, on the Katholikentag discussed here pp. 152–153.

[62] Klemens Holzmeister (1886–1983) – an outstanding Austrian architect, chancellor of the Vienna Akademie der bildenden Künste (from 1931), during the Anschluss he was carrying out a project in Turkey (the building of the local parliament), which is how he retained his freedom, though all his property was confiscated. He returned to Austria in 1954.

[63] The catalogue was published in cooperation as an issue of the “Kirchenkunst” magazine, Sonderheft, 1933; F. Kieslinger, Mittelalterliche Religiöse Plastik aus Österreich, in: Mittelalterliche Religiöse Plastik aus Österreich, [31 Aug. – Oct. 1933], Wien 1933, p. 3.

[64] Franz Kieslinger (1891–1955) studied art history at the University of Vienna (under M. Dvořak and J. Strzygowski, doctorate in 1919), worked at the Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung (1913–1915). He fought on the front during World War I. Kieslinger published many scholarly studies on Gothic architecture (Glasmalerei in Österreich, ein Abriß ihrer Geschichte, Wien [1922]); he was a valued appraiser, including at the Dorotheum, an author of introductions to exhibition catalogues, and an art critic with right-wing views. Immediately after the Anschluss of Austria, he joined the NSDAP, directed the “restoration of Aryanism” in the art market – confiscating private collections and antique shop resources (Vienna, Munich, including Shiele’s large collections). In 1940, he co-organised the theft of works of art in Poland and the Netherlands; he administered a warehouse of looted objects, from where he sold them to Nazi dignitaries and the Lange and Weinmüller auction houses, and to the Dorotheum. After the war he did not go to court, he did not undergo denazification, he was still a valued expert in the Dorotheum and he mediated in art trade (mostly collaborating with Rudolf Leopold, later founder of the Vienna Leopold Museum). On the nationalist tendencies at this time also in Hagenburg, see E. Klamper, Art in the Service… (fn. 59), pp. 349–535; Klamper, Die Mühen der Wiederverchristlichung… (fn. 61), pp. 148–180, here also on the ideological relations of “German patriotism in Austria” with the Church.

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