Monday, 17 January 2011

Viktor Wolfgang Pirkhoff (I)

Viktor Wolfgang Pirkhoff
(3-12-1875 Prag - 11-9-1962 Brno)

Tjech painter, portraitist, printer.

A remarkable and wonderful thing happened. Miroslav, a distant relative of N.N. Pirkhoff (see posting of june 2010) found my blog. Or my Blog found him. This story a proof of the strength of the Internet connecting people.

Viktor Wolfgang Pirkoff born in Prag undoubtedly will have started his artistic training at the Prag Academy of Fine Arts (esth. 1799) but entered, probably somewhere in the mid 1890’s, the Académie Julian in Paris. This private Art school (famous painters and artists, like William Adolph Bouguereau (1825-1905), were invited to teach) was established in 1868 in the Quartier Latin preparing students for the exams of the Ecôle des Beaux Arts, the prestigious French State Art School.

Here the emphazis was on classic portrait and academic nude painting, like here in Bougereau's class room in the Academie Julian.

Viktor's self portraits show a self confident, well dresssed and aristocratic men.

Many foreign students followed courses and very modern, also allowing female students. I found some very interesting students attending classes: Arthur Wesley Dow (1857- 1922) was among them and Charles William Bartlett (1860-1940), both famous and influential printers later. And painters like Pierre Bonnard, André Derain, Childe Hassam (American Impressionist), Eduard Vuilllard, John Singer Sargent and Alphons Mucha. All very International.

We find Viktor W. Pirkhoff in his mid thirties a professor in Zurich (probably at the Zurich Kunstakadémie) from 1908-1910 and returning to Paris until the beginning of WWI (1914) then moving to Vienna, Austria.

The artist rooms (oil).

He was commissioned to portrait the Habsburg royal family,

1916: Otto von Habsburg (born 1912, died 2007) crown prince of Austria & Hongaria, son of the last Emperor Karl I

was acquainted with composer Franz Léhar (he made a cover for one his compositions according to this “thank you” photograph from the maestro and made a portrait of the last King of Egypt: Farouk I (born 1920, crowned 1936), probably when he visited Geneva in 1937.

Franz Léhar (l), Arch Duke Friedrich von Habsburg (r)

King Farouk of Egypt 1937

It is said that Pirkoff exhibited in many countries even in New York. This maybe explaining why the only 3 pictures I was able to find untill this day were related to auctions from America.

Although the Pirkhoffs lost their only child (a son) he seemed to do well as an artist in Austria. Until 1938 (he was then 63). As a jew he fled from Austria after “der Anschluss” (Austria joining the Nazis) and returned to his native country.

Next I shall tell you what happened to Viktor Pirkoff after 1945. His ordeal wasn't over yet. I am about to unveil a great collection of extraordinary fine woodblock prints never seen publicly for probably the last 70 years. Thanks to Miroslav who send me many pictures of this hidden treasure to share with you on my humble Blog. And whom I promised to do my best to give this artist the new attention he deserves.


  1. Can't wait to see the woodblock prints.

  2. You and the rest of the world will be surprised Neil. In a few days.

  3. You know what? I should have given my Ethel Kirkpatrick a build-up like this! (You forget to mention she was at the Academie Julien, too).

    His style is rather art school, so I wonder how he will approach the woodcut.