The Leopold Museum’s ONLINE COLLECTION currently features more than 1,400 image files of works from the Leopold Museum’s own collection and of permanent loans from private collections. The digital presentation spans the time from the Biedermeier period via Naturalism, Realism, Jugendstil and Expressionism all the way to New Objectivity. It comprises not only paintings and graphic works but also arts-and-crafts objects, for instance from the Wiener Werkstätte, including items of furniture, ceramic works, examples of glass art, jewelry as well as book and poster designs. Alongside works by exceptional protagonists, such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Richard Gerstl, to name but a few, the database further features eminent exhibits by artists including Rudolf von Alt, Hans Makart, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Olga Wisinger-Florian, Broncia Koller-Pinell, Tina Blau, Herbert Boeckl, Josef Hoffmann, Alfred Kubin, Anton Kolig, Albin Egger-Lienz, Koloman Moser, Max Oppenheimer, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, as well as examples of international art by Gustave Courbet, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, George Minne, Auguste Rodin, Ferdinand Hodler, Franz von Stuck and many others.
The short descriptions on select chief works reflect the latest state of research, while new video and audio contributions, geared towards adults, teenagers and children, are regularly uploaded to the database. The new platform invites users to find out whether a specific artwork is “currently on display” and whether the museum’s collection comprises similar works. The “albums” found on the online database’s start page allow visitors to discover individual works, to gain deeper insights or to leisurely browse the collection. The Leopold Museum’s ONLINE COLLECTION opens up new perspectives to experts as well as to an interested general public, and offers insightful contextualizations of the collection, from hidden treasures to new acquisitions.
The Leopold Museum’s Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger:
The ONLINE COLLECTION is an essential building block of the Leopold Museum’s strategy to make information available beyond physical boundaries. Along with collecting, researching and conserving, it is one of the core tasks of any museum to present and mediate art on site and, by extension, also within the digital sphere. We are committed to engaging new target audiences with art, and to offer free, unrestricted and user-friendly access to our collection to interested people all over the world in keeping with our educational mandate. This online presentation affords an opportunity to explore the collection – compiled by the passionate collector Rudolf Leopold (1925–2010) together with his wife Elisabeth Leopold from the 1950s onwards – in its entire range of different themes and epochs. We owe it to the generosity of the collectors Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold that they brought their collection, comprising some 5,000 exhibits, into a non-profit private foundation in 1994 in conjunction with the Republic of Austria and the Austrian National Bank which, in turn, undertook to build a museum to house the collection and to help finance the running of the institution. This alliance between the civic commitment shown by the collectors and the visionary conduct of political decision makers acting as advocates on behalf of the public has secured this outstanding private collection for Austria, making it permanently accessible to the public first with the opening of the Leopold Museum in 2001, and now through the digital presentation of the collection.
The majority of artworks comprised in the collection of the Leopold Museum hail from the private collection compiled by Prof. Dr. Rudolf Leopold (1925–2010), which in 1994 was brought into the newly established Leopold Museum Private Foundation. Since its inception, the Private Foundation has attached great importance to researching the works’ provenance. To this end, the Leopold Museum set up its own provenance research department in 2003. This research into the origins of the museum’s holdings focuses on whether the works were confiscated during the era of National Socialism.
In 2008, sustained media attention and controversies surrounding pending restitution requests prompted the then Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture to appoint two additional, independent provenance researchers to help with the systematic research into the Leopold Museum’s collection. From 2010, they started to submit their research findings as dossiers to a specially set up “advisory board on the provenance of works from the collection of the Leopold Museum Private Foundation” to decide on these matters. The board considered whether the individual cases met the requirements for the restitution of artworks to their former owners or their legal heirs in keeping with the Federal Act on the Restitution of Works of Art and Other Movable Cultural Assets from Austrian Federal Museums and Collections and Other Federal Property (Art Restitution) which was passed in 1998 and amended in 2009. The decisions made by the “advisory board” were then passed on to the foundation’s Board of Directors as recommendations. As the art restitution law does not apply to the Leopold Museum Private Foundation, the Board of Directors pledged that, whenever the “advisory board” recommended the restitution of a work, it would seek a “fair and just solution” in accordance with the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art passed in 1998 by the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets.
Since 2020, this systematic provenance research at the Leopold Museum, which is financed by the current Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport, has continued in close cooperation with the ministry’s Commission for Provenance Research established in 1998. The compiled dossiers are now submitted to the Austrian Art Restitution Advisory Board for consideration and resolution, though the members of the former “advisory board” may still be consulted.
So far, the majority of the collection’s drawings and paintings by Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka have been examined, and the systematic National Socialist provenance research into the museum’s holdings is ongoing. If available, the latest information as to the provenance of each object is noted in the ONLINE COLLECTION, and this information is continuously updated.
For more information on provenance research at the Leopold Museum, see the Lexicon of Austrian Provenance Research.
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