League of Austrian Artists

In April 1912, the new association League of Austrian Artists was constituted in Vienna along the lines of the Union of German Artists. The founding members appointed Gustav Klimt the institution’s first president.

On 3 April 1912, the Neues Wiener Journal reported that the League of Austrian Artists had been founded the previous day at the restaurant “Zur großen Tabakpfeife” [“The Large Tobacco Pipe”] in Vienna’s 1st District. Its institutional model was the Union of German Artists, which had been formed as early as 1903. According to newspaper coverage, the new artists’ association, which as an organization positioned itself as representing the interests of its members on a supraregional level, sought to promote artistic life in Austria and enable “immediate and concerted action on general questions of art.”

Among the founding members, who also sat on the association’s board, were numerous contemporary artists – the majority coming from the circle around Gustav Klimt, including Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann, Carl Moll, Anton Hanak, and Oskar Kokoschka. According to a press release in the Deutsches Volksblatt of 3 April 1912, membership in the new association was principally open to any artist: membership in other national or international artists’ associations was no criterion for exclusion.

The first meeting of the League of Austrian Artists took place in June 1912. At this meeting, the board unanimously elected Gustav Klimt as its first president for a five-year term.

First Media Attention
Just one year after its foundation, the League of Austrian Artists caused quite a stir in the media. The first occasion on which the association took a public stance was the planned relocation of the Donnerbrunnen [Donner’s Fountain] in Vienna’s 1st District. The institution spoke out against relocation. Their objection, which was sent to the competent Viennese magistrate on behalf of Gustav Klimt, was published in the Neues Wiener Tagblatt on 16 March 1913. 

A few months later, various newspapers once again wrote about the League of Austrian Artists – this time in the context of the recently awarded contract for the construction of Vienna’s municipal museum. The association criticized and deplored the fact that Otto Wagner had not been entrusted with the project. The League of Austrian Artists then appointed the highly deserving architect its honorary president as a sign of appreciation for his work, as the Neues Wiener Journal wrote in an article on 24 June 1913.

Social Commitment
The League of Austrian Artists, which successfully participated in national and international exhibitions, was also involved in social causes during World War I. Together with such other important artists’ associations as the Vienna Secession, the Hagenbund, and the Cooperative of Visual Artists in Vienna, they founded a welfare committee in the fall of 1914 to support needy or impoverished artists. To this end, they also organized several art exhibitions during the years of the war. According to a newspaper article in the Neues Wiener Journal published on 14 January 1916, their joint efforts had raised over 290,000 crowns (approx. 976,000 euros) for the Austrian artists’ welfare fund by December 1915.

The Institution’s Interwar Years
In the 1920s, the association once again attracted increasing media attention. Josef Hoffmann was appointed president at the time, and the institution reorganized itself. Also, the institution’s old name was more and more frequently accompanied by the addition of “Kunstschau” in various newspapers. In the 1930s, however, the League of Austrian Artists gradually disappeared from public sources.

Literature and sources

  • Neues Wiener Journal, 03.04.1912, S. 8.
  • Neues Wiener Journal, 28.06.1912, S. 9-10.
  • Neues Wiener Journal, 24.06.1913, S. 6.
  • Deutsches Volksblatt, 03.04.1912, S. 7.
  • Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 16.03.1913, S. 7.
  • Neue Freie Presse (Morgenausgabe), 24.03.1914, S. 9.
  • Neue Freie Presse, 05.02.1915, S. 13.
  • Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 23.04.1915, S. 15.
  • Neues Wiener Journal, 14.01.1916, S. 2.
  • Neues Wiener Journal, 04.02.1925, S. 12.
  • Arbeiter-Zeitung, 22.09.1913, S. 6.
  • Arbeiter-Zeitung (Morgenausgabe), 23.12.1913, S. 7.
  • Fremden-Blatt, 24.06.1913, S. 16.