Hans Zatzka (Austrian, 1859-1945)

A Fisherman's Delight


Hans Zatzka (Austrian, 1859-1945), A Fisherman’s Delight, signed lower left, oil on canvas, 31.5″ x 21″

Hans Zatzka was born in Vienna and, at the young age of eighteen, enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in his home city. From 1877 to 1882 he studied under Professor Blaas, and received a gold medal from the Academy in 1880.  Known primarily as a fantasy artist, his most popular and valuable works depict figures of young maidens, cherubs, floral still-life and cheerful Orientalist themes.

Like many artists of the era, Zatzka spent several years traveling through Europe. While visiting Italy, he developed a special interest in religious themes. In fact, during his travels, most of Zatzka’s income came from his religious frescos and other church commissions. Although his Madonna and Christ motifs decorate numerous churches, grace many stained glass windows, and embellish a number of European altarpieces, he is most widely known for his passionate images depicting sensuous female figures against a backdrop of nature’s beauty. Inspired by Richard Wagner’s romantic operas and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, he also painted water spirits, cupids, elves, and other mythological subjects.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, many of Zatzka’s works were photographed and turned into commercial and collectable postcards. Mass production of his “boudoir images” – scantily clad women, mermaids, nymphs and sirens – proved to be quite lucrative for the artist. In the 1920’s, his style became the decor of choice throughout Europe. There is still a healthy market for his work and his images continue to be sold internationally in both galleries and at auctions.


Zatzka painted under several pseudonyms: H. Zabateri, P. Ronsard, and J. Bernard.

Numerous leading art dealers from around the world that specialize in late 19th and early 20th century European genre paintings have come to the conclusion that the painter signing his works Bernard Zatzka, Joseph Bernard or J. Bernard is almost certainly the artist Hans Zatzka. The consensus seems quite plausible when comparing works known to have been executed by Hans Zatzka together with similar works displaying the signature; Joseph Bernard, J. Bernard or Bernard Zatzka.

The use of pseudonyms in the world of art was prevalent at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, particularly for painters working under contract with specific dealers and galleries. Rather than be limited by the amount of works they could sell under contract, painters would sign some of their works with a pseudonym. This allowed them to expand their sales base and avoid breaking their contractual agreements with their distributors.

source: Claudio Boltiansky, chief executive of Jan’s & Co. Fine French Antiques Inc. in South Los Angeles