The Zimpel Family

Gustav Klimt and the Zimpel family, December 1916, ARGE Sammlung Gustav Klimt, Dauerleihgabe im Leopold Museum, Wien
© Leopold Museum, Wien

Gustav Klimt and the Zimpel family in Litzlberg, summer 1905, ARGE Sammlung Gustav Klimt, Dauerleihgabe im Leopold Museum, Wien
© Leopold Museum, Wien

Gustav Klimt: Picture postcard from Gustav Klimt in Kammer am Attersee to Julius Zimpel jun. in Vienna, presumably 08/31/1902, ARGE Sammlung Gustav Klimt, Dauerleihgabe im Leopold Museum, Wien
© Leopold Museum, Wien

Johanna, the youngest sister of Gustav Klimt, married into the Zimpel family. The artist had close ties to the family, spending time with his relatives on the Attersee or celebrating Christmas with them. Gustav Klimt was also the godfather of his nephews Julius and Gustav Zimpel.

Gustav Klimt’s youngest sister Johanna married the accountant Julius Zimpel in Vienna in 1895. They had four children, born between 1896 and 1904. Klimt was the godfather of his two nephews Julius and Gustav Zimpel, as the relevant baptismal registers reveal. There, the artist himself confirmed his godfatherhood with his unmistakable signature.

Klimt had very close ties to his sister’s family. During his travels abroad or his summer sojourns in Austria he corresponded regularly with them and sent them picture postcards. There are also several photographs, created presumably during a summer sojourn on the Attersee after 1905, which show the artist with the Zimpel family.

Julius Zimpel’s Career
Like Gustav Klimt, Julius Zimpel attended the School of Arts and Crafts at the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry (now MAK – Museum of Applied Arts), where his teachers included Alfred Roller and Koloman Moser. He had success as a painter and graphic artist and specialized in book illustrations. According to various media reports, he succeeded the designer Dagobert Peche at the Wiener Werkstätte after World War I. The young artist, who was listed among the most talented young Viennese graphic artists by the Neues Wiener Journal on 4 June 1921, died aged only 28 in 1925.

A Visit to Johanna Zimpel
An article titled Eine alte Wiener Künstlerfamilie. Das Erbe des Maler-Apostels Gustav Klimt [An old Viennese Artists’ Family. The Legacy of the Painters’ Apostle Gustav Klimt], written by the journalist Rose Poor-Lima, was published in the Sunday supplement of the daily newspaper Neues Wiener Tagblatt on 29 December 1940. The author recalled a personal conversation with Klimt’s sister Johanna Zimpel, whom she had visited at her apartment. Johanna, whose husband and siblings had by then all passed away, for instance talked about her son Julius Zimpel, who had died at an early age and who, just like his uncle and godfather, had chosen an artistic career:

“Julius was one of those who can live only in beauty. When we gave our small private concerts at our home on Sundays, he would paint invitations and programs in the colors of the tablecloth and cups, a matching bouquet had to be put on the table; the slightest disharmony could hurt his eyes.”

The article also discussed Johanna’s memories of her two brothers Ernst and Gustav Klimt, their joint creative work in the context of the “Künstler-Compagnie” and especially Gustav’s relations with his family. Her apartment was decorated with several works by her brothers – including the likeness of their mother, Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Anna Klimt (1897/98, current location unknown). Johanna Zimpel also owned a photograph of Gustav Klimt in his painter’s smock and a picture of his confidant Emilie Flöge.

Literature and sources

  • Sandra Tretter, Peter Weinhäupl, Felizitas Schreier, Georg Becker (Hg.): Gustav Klimt. Atelier Feldmühlgasse 1911–1918, Vienna 2014.
  • Sandra Tretter, Peter Weinhäupl (Hg.): Gustav Klimt. Sommerfrische am Attersee 1900-1916, Vienna 2015.
  • Neues Wiener Journal, 10.10.1925, S. 4.
  • Neues Wiener Journal, 04.06.1912, S. 4.
  • Taufbuch 1896 (Tomus 80), röm.-kath. Pfarre Gumpendorf, Wien, fol. 148.
  • Taufbuch 1904 (Tomus 88), röm.-kath. Pfarre Gumpendorf, Wien, fol. 12.
  • Felix Czeike (Hg.): Historisches Lexikon Wien, Band 5, Vienna 1997, S. 706.
  • Rose Poor-Lima: Eine alte Wiener Künstlerfamilie. Das Erbe des Maler-Apostels Gustav Klimt, in: Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 29.12.1940, S. 17.