Nötsch im Gailtal 1884 – 1954 London


The oldest of the painters from the ‘Nötsch circle’, Sebastian Isepp, was born on 18 February 1884 in Nötsch in the Gailtal in Carinthia where his parents ran the village inn ‘Zum Dobratsch’. After finishing school in Marburg, in 1903 he went to Vienna where he studied until 1907 at the Academy of Fine Arts with Rudolf Bacher. As of 1908, Isepp’s work regularly featured in the spring exhibitions of the Vienna Secession up until 1918. He was a proper member of the Secession from 1909 to 1911. In 1911 he participated in the Sonderausstellung Malerei und Plastik (Special Exhibition for Painting and Sculpture), which was organized by the Neukunstgruppe in the rooms of the Hagenbund and was important for Austrian modernists. With his close, lifelong friend Oskar Kokoschka, he dominated the show. Isepp also featured in international exhibitions, for example in Dresden, Düsseldorf, Rome and Zurich. Apart from a few portraits in his early work, the painter concentrated almost entirely on landscapes and his winter scenes were a speciality. Isepp’s artistic interest was not just in painting but he also devoted his energies to sculpture and crafts, restoration and making old stringed instruments, as he was very musical. These versatile talents gave him a reputation as a welcome guest in Vienna’s intellectual circles in the early twentieth century. He socialized with the likes of Eugenie and Hermann Schwarzwald, Berta Zuckerkandl, Adolf Loos, Rainer Maria Rilke, Egon Wellesz, Carl Zuckmayer, Jakob Wassermann and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
In 1915 Isepp was a one-year volunteer for the Landsturm infantry regiment No. 4 and then served on the Italian Front. At the end of the war he returned to Nötsch, but moved back to Vienna in 1921 where he rekindled his many social contacts. He started moving away from painting and concentrating on restoring historic artworks until he ultimately abandoned painting entirely. He first worked as a freelance conservator for the Seilern and Liechtenstein collections and in 1928 he got a job at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna where he was appointed director of the conservation department in 1936. In 1938, Sebastian Isepp had to flee with his family from Vienna to London because his wife Helene was Jewish. The daughter of the Viennese bank director Dr. Paul Hammerschlag and professional singer, they had married in 1925. He managed to build up a new life in Britain and became an acclaimed conservator for the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the National Gallery and the Royal Collections. He died in London on 3 December 1954.