"Zum Vergnügen des Publikums" - "For the pleasure of the general public"

21 March 1819 – the start of 200 years of art for the public Remarks on the history of the Paintings Gallery

Two hundred years ago on 11 March, the Grätzer Zeitung (“Graz Journal”) published an “announcement to the public” under the heading “Promulgations of the Estates”, according to which the Landesbildergalerie (“Styrian Painting Gallery”)  would be open to “everyone” on two days of the week for two hours each from 21 March 1819.
These opening hours seem somewhat meagre today. However, the very fact that art in Graz was now accessible to the general public is significant. Until then, the arts and discussion of artistic matters had been the preserve of the wealthy. Art could only be studied by exclusive circles, especially those with access to collections owned by the nobility.
This changed with the age of the Enlightenment and the revolutions that occurred at the end of the 18th century. Art was now understood as the property of a general public or of a national community. Most national and urban art museums emerged as a result.


Grätzer Zeitung, 15th March 1819, Photo: Landesbibliothek Steiermark (Styrian State Library)

The establishment of the Graz “Paintings Gallery”


It can be assumed that Archduke Johann, who founded the “Inner Austrian National Museum Joanneum” in Graz in 1811, also played a substantial role in the establishment of the Graz “Paintings Gallery” and its opening in March 1819. At the very least, his numerous activities in Styria which promoted enlightenment ideals and popular education created a context and the very prerequisite for it.


Originally, the so-called Landesbildergalerie (“Styrian Painting Gallery”) in Graz was an institution of the Styrian Estates’ Drawing Academy. Ever since its foundation by the engraver Johann Veit Kauperz in 1785, it had acquired numerous prints and paintings which were mainly used as a collection of models that students could draw on in their education and training.

Wildenstein House, undated, Photo: Multimedia Collections/UMJ, unknown photographer

The Wildenstein House

In 1818, the Estates (which roughly corresponded to the Styrian state government today) then acquired the WildensteinHouse at (today's) Hans-Sachs-Gasse 1 to accommodate the Drawing Academy. The second floor of the building was to house the Landesbildergalerie which would now also be open to the public “for the purpose of the exaltation of art and for the pleasure of the public”.
An initial list comprising 320 paintings of this Paintings Gallery from 1819 shows that the works were primarily on loan. They were presented to the public in eight halls and hung close together. For the most part, it was members of the nobility, such as Count Attems, who lent paintings from their collections to the newly founded gallery.
The then director of the Drawing Academy, the classicist painter Josef August Stark, also contributed many paintings. He systematically handed over to the gallery various works he had acquired as well as many compositions by his own hand. In addition, other artists, officials, wealthy citizens and institutions such as the Joanneum added to the holdings of the “Paintings Gallery” with loans from their private collections.


Encouraged by the probable initiators, Governor Ferdinand Graf Attems and Director Josef August Stark, they all acted generously in making this first public art collection possible in Graz and Styria. By doing so, they demonstrated their commitment to the education of broader sections of the population and showcased their feeling of responsibility to a wider public.

Today’s two collections in the Alte and Neue Galerie at the Joanneum were to subsequently emerge from this first Paintings Gallery.


The new museum building from 1895, former Paintings Gallery and Museum of Cultural History and Arts and Crafts, today part of “Joanneumsviertel” (Joanneum Quarter), Photo: Steiermärkisches Landesarchiv (Styrian State Archive)

The new museum building at Neutorgasse 45

Initially, however, the Landesbildergalerie was not part of the “Inner Austrian National Museum” Joanneum. A local merging of the collections of the Paintings Gallery and the Joanneum took place from 1895 onwards in the newhistoricist museum building at Neutorgasse 45. It housed the Paintings Gallery, the Drawing Academy (which, however, did not belong to the Joanneum) and a new Museum of Cultural History and the Arts and Crafts. The building is now part of theJoanneumsvierteland home to storage and work rooms of the multimedia collections as well as the Neue Galerie Graz.
Due to numerous distinguished donations (for example, by Julie von Benedek, Johann and Joachim Sailler and others), however, the new museum building was soon bursting at the seams and had to be expanded as early as 1900 and 1901. The gallery was reorganised in 1903 and entrusted to the head of the cultural history department, the historicist sculptor KarlLacher.  


Kulturhistorische Sammlung, Museum für Geschichte

Merger, restructuring and reorganisation

Whereas in the 19th century it was artists who presided over the institutions – the Drawing Academy and the Paintings Gallery – the era of art historians was ushered in with the appointment of Wilhelm Suida as gallery director in 1910. The scientific field of art history had become established in the course of the 19th century and the Institute for Art History, founded in 1892 at the Karl-Franzens-Universität in Graz, worked closely together with the gallery’s directorate.
Under Wilhelm Suida, the art collections of the Province of Styria were merged, restructured and reorganised on the basis of scientific considerations and the art collections from the Joanneum and Paintings Gallery were merged. Suida’s catalogue of the “Landesbildergalerie und sculpture collection” from 1923 remains an indispensable source for research into today's collection.


Division of the collection into the Alte Galerie and Neue Galerie

His successor Karl Garzarolli-Thurnlackh placed the focus of his scientific activities on “The Gothic in Styria” and “Baroque drawings”, etc. – this helps to explain the numerous acquisitions in this area. Garzarolli-Thurnlackh also had to guide the gallery through the period of the Second World War – including rescue operations as well as new acquisitions of dubious origin.
During this time, more precisely in 1941, the collection was divided up into the Alte Galerie and the Neue Galerie. The latter became the focal point of modern and contemporary art with a lively contact with living artists as well as art collectors and art lovers.


One of 22 exhibition rooms of the Alte Galerie in Schloss Eggenberg, Photo: UMJ/N. Lackner

Relocation of the Alte Galerie to Schloss Eggenberg

The Alte Galerie proved itself as a collection of old masters with its three main collections ofmedieval art, art from the early modern period and the Graphic collection (a collection of prints and drawings from the 15th to the 18th century).
In the second half of the 20th century and at the start of the 21st century, the Alte Galerie increasingly focused its attention on exhibitions in general and often combined this with scientific symposia.
Another milestone in the history of the Alte Galerie was its relocation toSchloss Eggenberg to the west of Graz when it reopened on the first floor of the latter in 2005. Particularly noteworthy here is the presentation of visual arts arranged by themes that do not necessarily follow a strict chronological sequence. 


A glance at the acquisitions of the collections offers an extremely good reflection of significant socio-political and historical events. On the one hand, we become aware that the 19th-century inventory consisted primarily of incoming paintings. Sculptures were increasingly acquired in the 20th century, partly due to the economic crisis of the 1920s and 1930s, and partly due to “favourable” purchases during the war years and thereafter. Whereas in the 19th century the collection mainly expanded due to donations and bequests from affluent donors, in the 20th century it primarily grew as a result of purchases and through acquisitions from other departments. The acquisition of over 120 stained glass from the Museum of Cultural History and the Arts and Crafts in 1988 is one such example.
Since 2005, renowned loans from the Thyssen-Bornemiszacollection have enriched the presentation in Schloss Eggenberg: both medieval and modern objects of European standing have been put on display in the Alte Galerie. As of 2019, over twenty paintings of the Dutch Golden Age originating from the Kaiserschild Foundation and the Hans Riegel Collection in Bonn will be exhibited in addition to the in-house collection.


Alte Galerie, Schloss Eggenberg

Eggenberger Allee 90
8020 Graz, Österreich
T +43-316/8017-9560


Opening Hours

1 November to 17 December only with guided tour by prior appointment
April to October Tue-Sun, public holidays 10am-6pm 

Opening Hours Library
Tues–Fri 10am–12pm and afternoons by appointment only


10th April 2023
1st May 2023
29th May 2023