In 1931, Richard Gerstl’s surviving oeuvre was discovered by Otto Kallir in a dusty Viennese warehouse, where the artist’s family had stored it following his suicide in 1908. Kallir presented the unknown painter’s first exhibition at the Neue Galerie later in 1931, to immediate acclaim. However, the rise of the “Austrian Van Gogh” was soon derailed by Hitler’s campaign against “degenerate” art.
Prevented by both Austrian export restrictions and shipping costs from bringing his Gerstl inventory to the U.S. after World War II, Kallir sold most of the works to Vienna’s Galerie Würthle. He nevertheless continued documenting the oeuvre. In 1974, Kallir published the original estate inventory, plus supplemental materials that included reminiscences by Gerstl’s brother and the artist Viktor Hammer, in the bulletin of the Österreichische Galerie.
Attempts to compile a proper Gerstl catalogue raisonné, by Kallir and subsequent researchers, have thus far been compromised by the difficulty of dating the artist’s work. In 2017, in cooperation with conservation teams at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and the Leopold and Wien Museums in Vienna, the Kallir Research Institute commissioned technical analyses of a number of Gerstl’s major paintings. These analyses provide, for the first time, an in-depth understanding of the artist’s methods and development. The KRI plans to commission additional technical investigations and to use the results to date and fully document Gerstl’s oeuvre.