Heinrich Rieger

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Heinrich Rieger (born December 25, 1868 in Sereď , Austria-Hungary ; † October 17, 1942 in the Theresienstadt ghetto ) was an Austrian dentist who was an art collector . Rieger's collection was one of the most important in Austrian modern art . Rieger and his wife fell victim to the Holocaust .


Education and early years

Rieger was born as the son of Philipp and Eva Rieger, b. Schoolyard, born in Sereď an der Waag in the administrative district Pressburg (now Bratislava ), which at that time belonged to the Hungarian half of the empire . After graduating from the “Reformed Obergymnasium” in Budapest in 1885, Rieger was enrolled at the medical faculty in Vienna . On December 10, 1892 he received his doctorate in medicine. He then worked as a resident dentist in Vienna. On March 28, 1901, Rieger also acquired a villa in Gablitz , in which he also practiced. In 1906 Rieger took the Austrian citizenship oath.

The Rieger Collection

The Embrace by Egon Schiele, oil on canvas, formerly part of the Rieger Collection - now owned by the Austrian Belvedere Gallery.

Rieger began collecting contemporary works of art around 1900. Often he would accept works of art from penniless artists instead of money as reward for dental treatment. This brought him into contact with young artists such as Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, who were then living in Vienna, and became their sponsor. This form of honor soon became generally known in the artistic circles and this is how the core of his collection came into being. Through further purchases, Rieger's collection grew very quickly and soon became one of the most important of Austrian modern art alongside the Oskar Reichel collection . During the First World War alone , Rieger acquired over 120 works. In the years up to 1921, the inventory grew again by more than 250 works by young painters such as Käthe Kollwitz , Faistauer , Sterrer , Egger-Lienz , Liebermann and Stuck .

A clear focus was on Egon Schiele's works. His first 50 drawings came into Rieger's ownership between 1915 and 1918 - most of the oil paintings, such as the work “Cardinal and Nun” or “The Embrace”, in 1918. In 1921, Rieger owned 12 oil paintings by Egon Schiele. The collection was initially only accessible to a limited public in Rieger's private rooms in Vienna and Gablitz, or in his practice rooms. On July 29, 1921, Rieger - probably for tax reasons - submitted a request to the Monument Office for authorization to present his collection to the public. In the notarial act set up for this purpose, the entire collection was recorded in the only surviving inventory list up to this point. It has 658 positions on art objects.

In a letter to the Federal Monuments Office dated June 12, 1925, Rieger undertook to announce any exchange or sale of the registered objects. However, there is no such announcement in the files, since Rieger had apparently not sold any work up to this point in time.

In the 20s and 30s, Rieger acted as a lender for various Schiele exhibitions. Works from the Rieger Collection were on view in the exhibition in the Neue Galerie , Vienna, 1923 (now the Gallery next St. Stephan ) and in the exhibition in the Galerie Würthle in 1925 . In 1928, ten years after Egon Schiele's death , the memorial exhibition in the " Hagenbund ", the memorial exhibition in the Neue Galerie in Grünangergasse and the exhibition of the Association of Visual Artists (Secession) took place, at which Heinrich Rieger was also represented. The catalogs show that Rieger only ever acted as a lender and did not offer any of the works from his property for sale.

Other surveys of the collection Rieger is a surviving insurance list from 1935, another list for the autumn exhibition of the " Association of Visual Artists Vienna " in Künstlerhaus Wien was created, which was opened on 9 November 1935th From the latter list it became evident that Rieger had loaned around 200 works of art, including Schiele's oil painting “Cardinal and Nun”.

At the Paris World Exhibition in 1937 , four Schiele works from Rieger's collection were shown as part of an exhibition of Austrian art in the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume .

Before March 1938, the collection should have included around 120 to 150 drawings by Egon Schiele.

After the National Socialists came to power in Austria on March 13, 1938, Rieger, as a Jew, was forced to declare his total assets. The holdings of his art collection were recorded and assessed by Bruno Grimschitz , at the time Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Austrian Gallery Belvedere in Vienna. However, Grimschitz's estimate list of the collection of around 800 objects that was accepted at the time has been lost to this day. It is also unclear which objects Grimschitz recorded. It is also striking that the calculated value of his collection of 16,500 Reichsmarks (RM) compared to the insurance list from 1935, which is only about 200 objects, but an insurance value of 89,050 ATS included, is significantly lower. The exchange ratio was actually 1 RM = 1.5 ÖS. At the time, the collection was probably still housed in the Vienna apartment on Mariahilfer Strasse and in the villa in Gablitz.

With the “Fourth Ordinance on the Reich Citizenship Law ” of July 31, 1938, the license to practice medicine expired for Jewish doctors on August 31, 1938. In order to be able to earn a living for himself and his wife as well as the discriminatory compulsory payments, Rieger was now forced to expand his art collection and after to sell. He sold his first works in November 1938.

Rieger sold a total of 26 works, including Schiele's “Embrace” and “Cardinal and Nun” as well as Josef Dobrowsky's “Arms in the Spirit”, to the Salzburg art dealer Friedrich Welz in 1939 and 1940 respectively . Another large part of the Rieger collection was acquired in March 1941 by the Austrian graphic artist Luigi Kasimir , who, together with Ernst Edhoffer, ran an art shop in Vienna that had emerged from the aryanized art dealership Gall and Goldmann owned by Elsa Gall. Kasimir sold around 20 works from the Rieger Collection during the war years. Further works were found in Kasimir's private apartment in 1947. Both Welz and Kasimir paid amounts for the pictures that were well below the market value of the works of art. The sale to Kasimir was apparently based on the values ​​estimated by Grimschitz. After the end of the war, both had to answer for the acquisition of the Rieger Collection due to § 6 KVG due to “improper enrichment” (“ Aryanization ”). However, the proceedings against Welz ended with an out-of-court settlement, while Kasimir was acquitted because he had acknowledged all restitution claims. Robert Rieger, who lived in the USA as his father's legal successor, received at least some works back after the proceedings.

The Rieger Collection was thus scattered to the wind. However, some of Egon Schiele's drawings from the Rieger Collection have been lost to this day (2018). The collection is still the subject of provenance research today . If it could be proven that it belonged to the Rieger Collection , restitution to Rieger's legal successor was also initiated.

The Nazi persecution of Heinrich and Berta Rieger

With the expiry of his license to practice medicine on August 31, 1938, Rieger had to give up his practices in Vienna and Gablitz. On October 10, 1938, the couple left their Vienna apartment 7 / Mariahilfer Strasse 124 and moved to Gablitz.

On November 14, 1938, Rieger's villa in Gablitz was "aryanized" by the St. Pölten district administration and the Gablitz community with an annuity contract. The annuity was extremely low, and the value of the house had also dropped considerably. Rieger and his wife stayed in Gablitz until mid-October 1939 and then moved back to Vienna. In October 1941, Rieger and his wife had to change their place of residence again and stayed with a distant relative in Vienna until June 1942. After that, the Rieger couple had to move to the old people's home of the Kultusgemeinde Vienna , for which Rieger had to pay an admission fee of RM 10,000.

On September 24, 1942, Rieger and his wife were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto on the 42nd transport . After initiating a declaration of death on March 7, 1947, it was established that Heinrich Rieger had died there on October 17, 1942. The details of the death remained unclear. Berta Rieger was deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in 1944 , where she was murdered immediately upon arrival. The Riegers' assets fell to the German Reich in accordance with the “Ordinance on the Confiscation of Assets Hostile to the People and the State in Austria” of November 18, 1938 .


At the age of 25, Heinrich Rieger married 23-year-old Bertha Klug, daughter of a café owner, in Sereď on May 30, 1893. The couple had three children. The son Ludwig (1894–1913) and the third-born daughter Antonia (1897–1933) passed away through suicide . The son Robert (1894–1985) also became a doctor, emigrated to the USA in 1938 and was the legal successor to his father's art collection.


  • Michael Wladika: Dossier Dr. Heinrich Rieger. Provenance research on behalf of the Leopold Museum . December 2009. Pages 17f. ( online )

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Tobias Natter: The world of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka. Collectors and patrons. Cologne. 2003. ISBN 978-3-8321-7258-9 , pages 216-224.
  2. Lisa Fischer: somewhere. Vienna, Theresienstadt and the world. The Heinrich Rieger Collection. Vienna. 2008, p. 15.
  3. Sophie Lillie: What Once Was. Handbook of the expropriated art collections of Vienna. Czernin publishing house. Vienna. 2003. ISBN 978-3-7076-0049-0 . Pages 969f.
  4. Lisa Fischer: somewhere. Vienna, Theresienstadt and the world. The Heinrich Rieger Collection. Vienna. 2008, p. 156.
  5. Lisa Fischer: somewhere. Vienna, Theresienstadt and the world. The Heinrich Rieger Collection. Vienna. 2008, p. 65.
  6. Exhibition catalog Exposition D 'Àrt Autrichien, May - June 1937, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris.


  1. Officially determined by means of a declaration of death on March 7, 1947.