Wilde, Johannes

Johannes Wilde

Porträt, Zeichnung

2 June 1891 Budapest – 13 September 1970 Dulwich, Great Britain

also Janós Wilde

Janós Wilde studied art history, archaeology and philosophy in Budapest and Vienna, where he completed his doctorate with Max Dvořák and Josef Strzygowski on The Beginnings of Italian Etching in 1918. He returned to Budapest and participated in the confiscation of privately owned works of art "of national importance" during the brief period of Béla Kun's Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Although he was an assistant in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts until 1922, he had been granted a six-month study leave in September 1920 in order to be able to accept Max Dvořák's invitation to lecture at the University of Vienna. When Dvořák died in February 1921, Wilde remained in Vienna to prepare the publication of his collected works together with Karl Maria Swoboda, Dvořák's assistant. In June 1923, Wilde began working in the Picture Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM), first as a scientific assistant, later as curator 2nd Class. His main focus was the Italian Renaissance. Around 1928, Wilde used X-rays as a systematic aid in painting restoration and was considered a pioneer in this field. At the "Röntgentechnische Versuchsanstalt" he researched new ways of analysing images and finally, in 1930, together with his colleague Sebastian Isepp, he set up his own institute at the KHM. In 1930, Wilde married the art historian Julia Gyárfás, also born in Budapest, in the Votivkirche.

Although his wife had already converted to the Protestant faith, Augsburg Confession, in 1919 and to Catholicism on the occasion of her marriage, she was considered Jewish according to the Nuremberg Laws, and Wilde was thus considered to have "Jewish connections". After the "Anschluss" in March 1938, the Commissarial Director of the KHM, Fritz Dworschak, applied to the Ministry of the Interior and Cultural Affairs for his continued employment, citing Wilde's "exceptional merits". However, this was not granted and Wilde, supported by Antoine Seilern, an Austro-British art historian and collector, and Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery in London, emigrated to Great Britain together with his wife in April 1939. The Wilde couple lived in Aberystwyth, Wales, where Wilde was in charge of the conservation of Seilern's art collection and the paintings of the National Gallery, which were housed in the same building. Wilde also catalogued the British Museum's collection of Italian drawings. In 1940, Wilde was interned in Canada as an "enemy alien" because the camps in Britain were overcrowded. However, he was able to return to England in 1941 and began teaching at the Courtauld Institute, an institute for art history belonging to London University with its own art collection. In 1948, he was appointed deputy director, a position he held until his retirement in 1958.

Author Info
Publications about the person / institution

Kenneth Clark, Johannes Wilde, in: The Burlington Magazine 103 (June 1961), 205.

Dennis Farr, Wilde, Johannes (János), in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

Dennis Farr, A Student at the Courtauld Institute, in: The Burlington Magazine 1229 (August 2005), 539–547.

W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts, New York 1971.

Károly Kókai, Alternative Moderne. Johannes Wilde in Wien und Budapest, in: András F. Balogh, Helga Mitterbauer (Hg.), Gedächtnis und Erinnerung in Zentraleuropa, Wien 2011, 217–230.

Csilla Markója/István Bardoly, Wilde János családjának írt levelei, 1915–1917, in: Enigma 21 (2015) 83, 92–134.

Csilla Markója/István Bardoly, Wilde János családjának írt levelei, 1920–1921, in: Enigma 21 (2015) 84, 125–174.

Csilla Markója/István Bardoly, Wilde János családjának írt levelei 1922–1923, in: Enigma 21 (2015) 85, 11–75.

Csilla Markója, István Bardoly, Meller Simon és Petrovics Elek levelei Wilde Jánosnak, in: Enigma 21 (2015) 84, 49–68.

Csilla Markója, János (Johannes) Wilde and Max Dvořák, or Can we speak of a Budapest school of art history? in: Journal of Art Historiography (17) 2017, 1–21: URL: arthistoriography.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/markoja.pdf (17.10.2022).

Csilla Markója, Everyday life at the Dvořák Seminar, on the basis of contemporary sources. Addenda to the history of the Vienna School of Art History, in: Journal of Art Historiography (25): URL: real.mtak.hu/id/eprint/136085 (17.10.2022).

Ulrike Runeberg, Immigrant Picture Restorers of the German-speaking World in England from the 1930s to the Postwar-era, in: Arts in Exile in Britain 1933–1945. Politics and Cultural Identity. Edited by Shulamith Behr and Marian Malet, Amsterdam 2005, 339–371.

John Sherman, Johannes Wilde (1891–1970), in: Hermann Fillitz (Hg.), Wien und die Entwicklung der kunsthistorischen Methode, Wien-Graz 1984, 91–97.

Lee Sorensen, Wilde, Johannes, in: Dictionary of Art Historians, URL: arthistorians.info/wildej (13.10.2022).

Ulrike Wendland, Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil. Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler, 2, München 1999, 767–773.

Publications by the person / institution

Johannes Wilde/Max Dvořák/Carl Maria Swoboda (Hg.), Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte. Studien zur abendländischen Kunstentwicklung, München 1924.

Johannes Wilde, Das Rätsel der Kunst der Brüder van Eyck, mit einem Anhang über die Anfänge der holländischen Malerei, München 1925.

Johannes Wilde, Geschichte der italienischen Kunst im Zeitalter der Renaissance akademische Vorlesungen, München 1927/28.

Johannes Wilde, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kunstgeschichte, München 1929.

Johannes Wilde/Arthur Ewart Popham, The Italian Drawings of the XV and XVI Centuries in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle (catalogue, with reproductions; the sections relating to Michelangelo and his school by J. Wilde, translated by J. Leveen), London 1949.

Johannes Wilde, Italian drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Michelangelo and his studio, London 1953.

Johannes Wilde/Arthur Ewart Popham, Italian drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Artists working in Parma in the sixteenth century. Correggio, Anselmi, Rondani, Gatti, Gambara, Orsi, Parmigianino, Bedoli, Bertoja, London 1967.

Johannes Wilde, Venetian art from Bellini to Titian, Oxford 1974.


BDA-Ausfuhr, Ausfuhransuchen Johannes Wilde, Zl. 02870/1939.

KHM-Archiv, Personalia: III 1937, III 2318, III 2319; Direktionsakten: 132/KL/1938, 360/KL/1938, 190/KL/1939.
KHM, Gemäldegalerie, 27/GG/1939, 43/GG/1970.

OeStA/AdR, ZNsZ, Gauakt Johannes Wilde, Zl. 48469.
OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, VVSt, VA 3810, Johannes Wilde.

School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) Library, University College London, Catalogue of Wilde Collection: www.ucl.ac.uk/library/ssees-archives/widitem.htm (18.10.2022).