(Update July 2023)
The Austrian painter, Felix Albrecht Harta (1884 – 1967) was in the words of the Art Historian, Nikolaus Schaffer, “was once one of the torchbearers of the most modern artistic spirit […]”. Despite two World Wars, he established a formidable reputation as a leading proponent not only of Austrian Art, but also as an active and ardent supporter of culture within Austria. He also was close with the three great painters of Austrian Expressionism, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele. Despite his achievements, there is no publication that describes his life and work, so he remains somewhat under researched. However, in 1991, Edith K. Baumgartner seeing a research gap presented a doctoral dissertation for her Ph.D. from the University of Salzburg on the life and work of Harta. While a debt of gratitude is owed her for her effort, her massive thesis presented in two volumes was never formally published. Moreover, her illustrated catalog of approximately 700 works presented in Volume 2 suffered from being available only as a black and white pdf like document making it difficult for stakeholders (i.e curators, dealers, etc) to interpret the images. There also were numerous errors and omissions as is typical when one individual attempts to catalog a deceased artist where many original source documents are destroyed, missing, or unavailable. As the world wide web grew, Harta references appeared but remained scattered. Meanwhile the dissertation was known to me, but I was busy with family and career. It was not until early to mid-2019, that I began translating the dissertation from German to English with the sole purpose of learning more about my grandfather.
As fate would have it, two astute curators, Eva Jandl-Jöerg (Salzburg Museum), and Kerstin Jesse (Belvedere Museum, Vienna) recognized a gap, and were in the process of curating a large exhibition: “Faistauer, Schiele, Harta & Co: Painting Unites Us.” This exhibition that opened in the Art Gallery of the New Residence in the Salzburg Museum in July of 2019 broke new ground because two famous museums collaborated, focusing on several of the key themes that characterize Harta, and his artistic peers within the period directly after World War I. Fortunately, I was able to provide the exhibit with documents from my mother’s papers, and then had the privilege of being able to travel to Salzburg where I attended the opening. At the same time, another smaller exhibition: “Alles Tanzt” had opened at the Theater Museum in Vienna and also featured Harta works. And here, I thought Harta had been forgotten! In Vienna and Salzburg, I met with curators from both sponsoring Museums explaining my efforts to translate my mother’s papers on Harta from German to English. Interestingly, they explained their concerns with Baumgartner’s catalog and what was lacking was a true catalog raisonné of Harta. Since the Belvedere had a department that specialized in developing catalog raisonnés my effort should focus there. My initial aim was based on creating a foundation that the Museum could work from, but the Covid pandemic in 2020 disrupted this plan, as the Museum was forced to disband that department. Meanwhile, efforts continued to locate Harta works with the website being a preferred place for collectors and dealers to contact me. It is important to understand that the website is not a finished catalog raisonné-functioning instead as an archive of Harta works and information that serves as a foundation for a qualified Art historian to validate the objects. In July of 2022, I was fortunate to begin a collaboration with Stefan Üner, a qualified Austrian Art Historian who previously had worked on catalog raisonnés of Kolomon Moser and Kurt Absalom. With the website serving as one of several sources, the goal now is to produce and publish the definitive print-based catalog raisonné of the work of Felix Albrecht Harta as well as to continually update the information on the website. We envision publication approximately three years from now.
Over 400 objects previously uncatalogued have been discovered, and catalogued. Harta’s extensive exhibition participation has also been updated with continued ongoing source verification. Finally, great progress has been achieved with providing higher resolution images as well as replacing placeholder images.
The site is intended to be utilized by art museum curators, dealers, directors, and historians, but can easily be enjoyed by a general audience interested in Austrian expressionism. I trust you will enjoy it as much as I have.
1. Schaffer, Nikolaus. “Der Schrekensengel und die Marchenkönige: Zwei Haupwerke von Felix Albrecht Harta” in Salzburg Museums Blatter, das Kunstwerk des monats, Jänner 1995 8. Jahrgang/blatt 82.
2. Naturally, some of this void was caused by his forced exile to England which severely impacted his artistic development. See Biography.
3. Baumgartner, Edith K.: Felix Albrecht Harta (1884 -1967), Dissertation for a Doctorate, University of Salzburg, 1991.
4. Alles tanzt Kosmos Wiener Tanzmoderne was held at the Theater Museum in Vienna from March 21 2019 to February 10, 2020.