Franz Kosler was born in Vienna on 16th August 1864. His artistic career began in 1881 when he joined the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. From 1884-1885 he studied under the leading Orientalist Leopold Carl Müller (1834-1892), whose influence can be seen in Kosler’s paintings, particularly his genre scenes and portraits of young Orientals.
In 1886 Kosler toured Dalmatia, Montenegro and Albania, and in 1892, encouraged by Müller, he made the first of several visits to Egypt. Over the next few years Kosler often spent the winter in Egypt and his first collective exhibition was held in Cairo. This brought him rapid fame and success, and several portrait commissions including one from Prince Said Halim Pasha, grandson of Mehemet Ali Pasha, and the future Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. This Egyptian Prince also bought other works by Kosler including one entitled ‘Fellaheen with Child’. Kosler returned to Egypt in the winter months of 1895 and in the same year painted two portraits of Archduke Ferdinand Karl in Vienna. In 1896 he painted the portrait of Countess Palfy-Schilippenback.
Whilst in Cairo, Kosler met many wealthy English art collectors and exhibited two paintings of Egyptian scenes at the Royal Academy in London, “Vegetable Sellers, Cairo” and “The Blind Beggar”. The appearance of his works at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1906, shortly after his death, demonstrates Kosler’s popularity amongst the English public. Even today, many of his paintings are owned by private English collectors.
As well as exhibiting in England, Kosler exhibited for the first time in Vienna in 1895 and became a member of the Society of Artist Painters in 1901. He went on to participate regularly in the Viennese salons for the next few years. He also exhibited at the Munich Glass Palace in 1899. Kosler’s death on 15th December 1905 put an end to a promising career.
Kosler’s style is very reminiscent of his teacher, Müller, in his technical mastery and skilful representation of light. Kosler’s style may also be likened to Arthur Ferraris, also an Austrian Orientalist. He painted in clear colours with close attention to detail. All figures in his work are treated with the same technique and ability that he applied to his beautifully executed portraits.
Franz Xavier Kosler, born in Vienna in 1864, was one of the most celebrated Orientalist painters of his generation. Kosler began his artistic studies at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (The Academy of Fine Arts) in Vienna, studying under the renowned Austrian Orientalist artist Leopold Carl Müller. Highly influenced by his work Kosler went on to follow in his tutor’s footsteps travelling abroad to paint the Near East firsthand, depicting richly coloured genre scenes and tender close-up portraits of young sitters dressed in traditional clothing, echoing the work of his mentor. Setting off in 1886, Kosler travelled to Dalmatia, Montenegro, Albania and Egypt, returning to the latter two years after he had returned to Vienna in 1866, sponsored by Archduke Ferdinand Karl.
In Egypt he opened a one-man exhibition in Cairo in 1894. The show was a great success and secured Kosler many wealthy Egyptian clients including Prince Said Halim Pasha, the grandson of Mehemet Ali Pasha, the future Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, who commissioned a series of portraits from the artist. Kosler’s portrait commissions were not limited to Egyptian society. He also painted the Archduke Ferdinand Karl in Vienna and other wealthy individuals, such as Countess Palfy-Schilippenback who sat for the artist in 1896. Whilst in Egypt Kosler made acquaintances with a number of influential European art collectors. These connections encouraged Kosler to exhibit at the Glass Palace in Munich in 1899 and at the Royal Academy in London, where he exhibited The Blind Beggar and Vegetable Sellers, Cairo in 1903. Kosler also found fame in his home country regularly exhibiting in the Viennese salons from 1895, becoming a member of the Society of Artist Painters a few years later in 1901.
Kosler is best known for his intricately detailed works such as Camel Market in Cairo 1889, in the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum collection in Linz, however his more delicate portraits also display an ability to capture emotion. Nada, jeune Beduin, Sinai shows the subject in traditional head dress with only the face visible, beautifully framed by the folded drapery. Kosler often captures his sitters in profile or modestly glancing down.
Benezit Vol VI P294 (1976)
Thieme-Becker ‘Kunstlerlexicon’ Vol XXI P334
‘Les Orientalistes des Ecoles Allemande et Autrichienne’ by Martina Haja & Günther Wimmer, ACR Editions, 2000 pp.278-281