Balke, Franz

Franz Balke


28 August 1889 Otzenrath, Rhineland – 3 September 1972 Hamburg

Franz Balke, who studied art history at the universities of Tübingen, Berlin and Bonn, worked for ten years after the First World War as a teacher and educator and had his own community home in Cammin/Pomerania. In 1927 he became an assistant in the Pomeranian Provincial Administration, where he helped to establish the more recent departments in the Landesmuseum in Stettin. He became an official custodian in 1930 and was appointed the following year as Provinzialkonservator (head curator) of Pomerania. In the mid-1930s he was obliged because of a conflict with the NSDAP Gau leadership to leave the Pomeranian Provincial Administration. He worked thereafter for a short time at Krefeld Museum. After being employed from 1936 to 1939 as art consultant in the German Army Administration in Hannover, he was appointed in 1939 as consultant in the Zentralstelle für Denkmalschutz (Central Monument Protection Authority) and moved to Vienna. Here he was responsible for assessing art objects for the Authority and was also involved in active monument protection. In 1942 he moved to the Österreichische Galerie, where he was entrusted initially with arrangements for the Prince Eugene Museum in the Winter Palace, which was ultimately never realized, before being also associated with salvaging operations. He was appointed a curator in 1944 with the assistance of museum director Bruno Grimschitz, although he was unable to obtain tenure for him because of his advanced age. Apart from his employment in the Österreichische Galerie, the monument authority also entrusted Balke in July 1945 with the salvaging and repatriation of artworks under the leadership of Hugo Kaucig. The following year he began as an expert in modern painting in the Dorotheum art department, and as a court-sworn expert in fine arts in 1948 he visited the storage depot in Celle to identify artworks belonging to Austrians. When he was dismissed in 1954, on account of disagreements with the director Karl Garzarolli-Thurnlackh, among other things because of his work for the Dorotheum, he was meant to be attached to the Federal Monuments Authority, but the appointment was never made. Thereafter he worked as a freelance court expert in the art trade in Vienna. In 1969 he moved to West Germany, where he died a few years later in Hamburg.

Author Info
Publications about the person / institution

Theodor Brückler/Ulrike Nimeth, Personenlexikon zur Österreichischen Denkmalpflege (1850–1990), Bundesdenkmalamt, Wien 2001.

Katinka Gratzer-Baumgärtner, Das Belvedere in Wien: zum Status der Provenienzforschung in der Bibliothek des Hauses, in: Bruno Bauer/Christina Köstner-Pemsel/Markus Stumpf (Hg.), NS-Provenienzforschung an österreichischen Bibliotheken. Anspruch und Wirklichkeit (= Schriften der Vereinigung Österreichischer Bibliothekarinnen und Bibliothekare 10), Graz-Feldkirch 2011, 391–412, URL: (3.12.2020).

Publications by the person / institution

Franz Balke, Der Bildhauer Fritz Wotruba, in: Die Zeit. Halbmonatsschrift für Kunst, Kultur und Politik (1948) 16, 16–18.
Franz Balke, Ein Kinderbildnis von Thomas Lawrence in der Österreichischen Galerie zu Wien, Stuttgart 1950.


Archiv der Österreichischen Galerie Belvedere, Wien, PA Franz Balke; Zl. 24/1943; Zl. 44/1944; Zl. 69/1945; Zl. 152/1946, Zl. 3/1948, Zl. 309/1951; 272/1952; 131/1953; 649/1953.

BDA-Archiv, PA Franz Balke.

Dorotheum Wien, Einbringungsaufzeichnungen 1966.

OeStA/AdR, ZNsZ, Gauakt 44.466, Franz Balke.