(Update October 2022)
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[…]”.(1) 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. Despite his achievements, there is no unifying publication that describes his life and work, so he remains somewhat under researched.(2) However, in 1991, Edith K. Baumgartner seeing a gap in research, presented a doctoral dissertation for her Ph.D. from the University of Salzburg on the life and work of Harta.(3) 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 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. As the world wide web grew, Harta references appeared but remained scattered. Meanwhile I had known about the document, but was busy with my family and career. When I retired in late 2012, my wife sadly, became terminally ill, so it was not until early to mid-2019, that I began translating the dissertation from German to English with the purpose of leaving a legacy for my children, and 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 groundbreaking 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, and focused 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.(4) And here, I thought he had been forgotten! During this time, I met with curators from the Belvedere and described my research efforts. They explained that a formal catalog raisonné of Harta did not exist, as well as the problems with Baumgartner’s catalog, and that my effort should focus on developing a formal catalog raisonné. Therefore, the goal is to produce a formal catalog raisonné that present Harta’s works within one place. The online digital format was preferred because it can easily be edited, and is more cost effective. It’s also intended that this online resource becomes the definitive catalog for identification and comprehension of Harta’s career oeuvre.
The first phase of this project focused on cataloging Harta’s oil paintings from 1905 up to 1963. At the time of her thesis presentation, Baumgartner had catalogued approximately 338 Oil paintings. To date One hundred (100) Oils, not discovered by Baumgartner have been catalogued. Regarding graphics, as of this revision approximately two hundred (201) graphics have been discovered. Thus, a total of approximately 376 works, previously unlocated are cataloged. This project also has updated Harta’s exhibition history and added or clarified various biographical facts. Because of the cooperation with collectors, galleries, and Museums, many placeholders now show a far better image. I also work with an experienced Austrian art historian, Dr. Stefan Üner in Vienna who actively supports the project with his expertise on Austrian modernism.
The site is intended to be utilized by art museum curators, dealers, directors, and historians, but can easily be enjoyed by a general audience. I trust you will enjoy it as much as I have. -Larry Heller
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.