Karl Wittgenstein and the Wittgenstein Family

The patronage of industrialist Karl Wittgenstein (1847–1913) and his wider family – his elder brother, Paul and his son, Hermann, and Karl’s youngest daughter, Margaret – was fundamental to the careers of Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffmann, and to the endeavours of the Secession and the Wiener Werkstätte. It was Karl Wittgenstein who, in 1898, provided essential funding for the Secession building.

Karl Wittgenstein was the son of a wealthy wool merchant of Jewish extraction who had converted early to Protestantism. After an adventurous youth Karl embarked on a career in the iron industry. By 1898 he was the driving force behind a number of mines, processing plants and factories and was later hailed by the London Times as the ‘Carnegie of Austria’. As a patron he was daring and imaginative. His collection of fine art included sculpture by Auguste Rodin and Max Klinger, and paintings by Giovanni Segantini and, above all, Gustav Klimt. Klimt works acquired or commissioned by the Wittgensteins embraced his output as portraitist, allegorist and landscapist.

The Wittgensteins’ patronage also encouraged the evolution of Josef Hoffmann’s architectural and design styles – from his early interest in the British Arts and Crafts Movement, through his use of simplified geometrical forms and bold contrast, to the refined combination of opulent colour and luxurious materials. In 1904 Hoffmann collaborated with Koloman Moser on the interior of the Berlin apartment of Jerome and Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein. They collaborated again in 1906 on the Viennese apartment of Hermann Wittgenstein. Moser’s suite of austere furniture for the guest room is presented here. 

Works on display

  • Josef Hoffmann Armchair from the Dining Room of Margaret and Jerome Stonborough’s Berlin Residence 1905
  • Josef Hoffmann Bed and Bedside Table from the Residence of Dr. Hermann Wittgenstein
  • Josef Hoffmann Coal Bucket owned by Paul Wittgenstein 1905
  • Josef Hoffmann Games Table for Karl Wittgenstein 1907
  • Gustav Klimt Life is a Struggle (Golden Rider) 1903
  • Niccolò Bonbon Box for Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein 1905
  • Gustav Klimt Study for Portrait of Margaret Stonborough 1905
  • Koloman Moser Sugar Bowl with Spoon for Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein
  • Josef Hoffmann Table from the Guestroom of Dr. Hermann Wittgenstein Residence 1906
  • Josef Hoffmann Tea and Coffee Set for Margaret Wittgenstein-Stonborough 1904
  • Josef Hoffmann Three Photograph Albums containing Photos of Karl Wittgenstein and his Family 1890–1914
  • Josef Hoffmann Wash Stand from the Guestroom of Dr. Hermann Wittgenstein Residence 1906