Gerstl, Richard

BORN 14 Sep 1883, Wien - DIED 5 Nov 1908, Wien
CAUSE OF DEATH suicide by hanging
GRAVE LOCATION Wien: Friedhof Sievering, Nottebohmstrasse 51 (Gruppe 02, Nummer 11)

Richard Gerstl was the son the Jewish merchant Emil Gerstl and his non-Jewish wife Maria Pfeiffer. Because of discipline problems he was forced to leave the gymnasium he attended in Vienna. Against the wishes of his father he wanted to be a painter and in 1898 he was accepted at the Academy in Vienna. There Christian Griepenkerl was his teacher. Griepenkerl was a difficult man and Gerstl rejected the style of the Secession in Vienna. He more or less taught himself during the following years and was also guided by the more liberal Heinrich Lefler.

In 1904 and 1905 he shared a studio with Viktor Hammer but in 1906 he set up his own studio. In 1907 he associated with Arnold Schönberg and Alexander von Zemlinsky who lived in the same building as he did. He painted Schönberg, his wife Mathilde, Alban Berg and Zemlinsky. In the summer of 1908 Mathilde left Schönberg and travelled to Vienna with Gerstl. But in October Mathilde went back to her husband. Frustrsated with the loss of Mathilde and the lack of artistical acceptance he wernt to his studio, destroyed most of his papers by burning them and then hanged himself in front of the mirror in the studio. He had also cut himself severely with a butcher's knife before he died.

Gerst's death had a huge impact on Schönberg, whose opera "Die Glückliche Hand" was based on the events. Gerstl's paintings were stored by his family. After they were shown to art dealer Otto Kallir (d.1978) in 1930 or 1931 Kallir organised an exhibition at his Neue Galerie. During the nazi era work was repressed and only after the Second World War his name became known in the USA.

Related persons
• painted Berg, Smaragda
• was pupil of Griepenkerl, Christian
• admired Mahler, Gustav
• painted Schönberg, Arnold
• knew Schönberg, Arnold
• painted Zemlinsky, Alexander von


The grave of Richard Gerstl at the Sievering Cemetery in Vienna.
Picture by androom (15 Aug 2006)


• Becker, Edwin & Sabine Grabner (eds.), Wenen 1900, Portret en interieur, Van Goghmuseum, Amsterdam, 1997
Wikipedia (EN):

Gervinus, Georg Gottfried

Published: 30 Nov 2014
Last update: 21 Apr 2024