Kris, Ernst

Ernst Kris

Porträt, Schwarz-Weiß-Foto, rund

26 April 1900 Vienna – 27 February 1957 New York

The Viennese art historian Ernst Kris worked as researcher from 1927 to 1938 in the Collection of Sculpture, Arts and Crafts in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. In 1927 he married the psychiatrist Marianne Rie, whose father was a paediatrician and a friend of Sigmund Freud. Apart from his research, Kris was also interested in psychoanalysis, and with his wife was a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. In 1933 he became co-editor of Imago, the magazine founded by Freud. To escape Nazi persecution on account of his Jewish origins, Kris applied for retirement in March 1938 and permission to emigrate to Britain. Museum director Fritz Dworschak supported his desire to emigrate by pointing to his loyal behaviour, having demonstrated "his attitude through the transfer of a number of valuable books, magazines and photographs for the relevant collection in our institution." A short time afterwards, Ernst and Marianne Kris and their two children were able to emigrate to London, where Kris analysed Nazi propaganda for the BBC. In 1940 the family moved to Canada. In September of that year he was employed as a professor at the New School for Social Research in New York. He now devoted himself entirely to his second career as a psychoanalyst and published a definitive work on caricature together with the art historian Ernst Gombrich. He also wrote about laughter, morality and totalitarianism, and the mechanisms and dangers of propaganda. In 1947, by now a US citizen, he attempted to obtain pension payments from Austria. His application was refused and it was not until March 1957 that the Federal Ministry of Education granted him a special pension. Unfortunately, it arrived too late, because Ernst Kris had died a few days earlier.

In the course of provenance research at the KHM, 61 books from the previous property of Ernst Kris were identified in the library. On 29 June 2021, the Art Restitution Advisory Board recommended the restitution of these works to the legal successors.

Author Info
Publications about the person / institution

Beiratsbeschluss Ernst Kris, 29.6.2021, URL: (5.8.2022).

Uta Grundmann,  Ernst Kris (1900-1957). Von der Kunstgeschichte zur Analyse nationalsozialisitischer Propaganda, Berlin 2000.

Susanne Hehenberger/Monika Löscher, "… das Schmerzenskind der letzten Jahre…". Ein Arbeitsbericht zur Provenienzforschung in der Bibliothek des Kunsthistorischen Museums, in: Bruno Bauer/Christina Köstner/Markus Stumpf (Hg.), NS-Provenienzforschung an Bibliotheken in Österreich, Wien 2011, 441–458.

Bruno Thomas, Nachruf Ernst Kris, in: Mitteilungsblatt der Museen Österreichs (1957) 6, 97−99.

Publications by the person / institution

Ernst Kris, Mittelalterliche Bildwerke (= Sammlungen des kunsthistorischen Museum in Wien 2), Wien 1925.
Ernst Kris, Der Stil "rustique", in: Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 1 (1926), 137−208.
Ernst Kris, Meister und Meisterwerke der Steinschneidekunst in der italienischen Renaissance, Wien 1929.
Ernst Kris, Goldschmiedearbeiten des Mittelalters, der Renaissance und des Barock, Teil 1 (= Publikationen aus den kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 5), Wien 1932.
Ernst Kris, Ein geisteskranker Bildhauer, in: Imago 19 (1933), 384−411.
ErnstKris, German radio propaganda. Report on home broadcasts during the war, London 1944.
Ernst Kris, Psychoanalytic explorations in art, New York 1952.

Fritz Eichler/Ernst Kris, Die Kameen im kunsthistorischen Museum. Beschreibender Katalog, Wien 1927.

Ernst H. Gombrich/Ernst Kris, Caricature, with sixteen colour plates and nineteen illustrations in black and white, Harmondsworth 1940.

Ernst Kris/Leo Planiscig, Katalog der Sammlungen für Plastik und Kunstgewerbe (= Führer durch die kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 27), Wien 1935.


KHM-Archiv, III 928, PA Ernst Kris.