1860 Vienna – 1954 Weißenkirchen/Lower Austria
- „Emperor Franz Joseph I in front of the Pavilion in Schönbrunn Zoological Garden“
- Vienna, circa 1910
- lower left "Joh. Nep. Geller"
- oil and tusche on cardboard
- 19 ¾ × 27 ½ in
This atmospheric painting by the renowned Austrian painter Johann Nepomuk Geller shows Emperor Franz Joseph in the winter of his life in one of the large avenues of the extensive zoological garden in Schönbrunn Palace Park. The Baroque pavilion, which once served as a breakfast salon for the emperor and his wife Empress Sisi, can be seen in the background. Situated in the center of the star-shaped network of promenades, the circular building offered the sovereign and his consort an excellent view of the animals in the menagerie.
Geller created this work in 1910 as part of one of his most important commissions for a total of ten scenes from the life of the emperor for the magnificent volume „Viribus Unitis“. Edited by the Viennese publisher Max Herzig, this book-shaped homage to the emperor was published in three volumes – in 1898, 1908 and 1910. Herzig commissioned the best painters of his time to produce the benevolent depictions of the emperor. The original paintings were photographed and reproduced as heliogravures.
Johann Nepomuk Geller had already created a picture of the emperor for the 1908 volume. Apparently to the client’s liking, because in the subsequent book from 1910 – as mentioned above – there were no fewer than ten depictions from the life of Franz Joseph I. This series was created to mark the 80th birthday of the Habsburg ruler. A particularly splendid version in the form of an opulent ceremonial box was in the emperor’s private possession and is now kept in the Austrian National Library.
Johann Nepomuk Geller studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts under Christian Griepenkerl and Eduard Peithner von Liechtenfels from 1876 to 1889. As early as 1889, Geller worked for the imperial family, producing several views for the encyclopedic “Kronzprinzenwerk” (“crown prince’s work”) commissioned by Crown Prince Rudolf. In 1894 Geller became a member of the Vienna Künstlerhaus and in 1900 a founding member of the Hagenbund. In 1904 he was awarded the Grand Imperial Prize as well as the silver medal at the St. Louis World Exhibition. In 1918 he was honored with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Franz Joseph. In 1919, he joined the Wachau Artists‘ Association. Johann Nepomuk Geller died in 1954 in Weißenkirchen in der Wachau, his adopted home, and is today regarded as one of the most gifted Austrian landscape and architectural painters of the early 20th century. Works by the artist can be found in the collections of the Belvedere Vienna and the Wien Museum. Geller became particularly famous for his figurative scenes of urban and rural life in the monarchy. As testimonies to a long-lost empire and the everyday life of its inhabitants, they are of inestimable historical value.
With this depiction of the Emperor at Schönbrunn, we are delighted to present the original painting that Geller created in 1910 for the important imperial commission.