Gretl Urban 1905


Full-length near-profile portrait, in standing position, shown in residential interior. The portrayed woman, her hair pinned up, puts on a white silk evening glove. She wears a dark purple silk dress, the sleeves trimmed with several layers of light purple silk ruffles, around the neckline a white lace overlay. Living interior represented by brown floor and carpet, and by a pale purple wall on which two paintings are partially visible.

JQAW# P_1905_030
Oil on canvas 200 x 111 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams 05
Private collection USA

Margarete Sofie "Gretl" Urban, née Benk, remarried Ulbing (22.10. 1881 Vienna to 1.8. 1971 Vienna).
Gretl Urban was born in Vienna, the daughter of the sculptor and Künstlerhaus member Johannes Benk (1844-1914). Together with her sister Hedwig Reichert, née Benk, like Gretl a Viennese beauty, she socialized in Künstlerhaus circles (especially at their famous Gschnasfeste/costume balls), where the connection to Adams was probably established, who portrayed both sisters in 1905 and exhibited them in the Künsterhaus (KH EL 48 1904/05 #1585 and KH EL 49 1905/06 #3008). Gretl married (19.4.1902) the publisher's son (medical literature) Karl (Carl) Urban (1875-1930), but separated (separation 29.1.1915, divorce probably later, but unknown) from her husband and two children. She remarried (probably after 1930) and lived in Vienna as Margarete Ulbing until 1971. She is buried in the Urban family crypt in Döbling Cemetery, a sign of reconciliation (with) the Urban family despite the failed marriage.

The portrait Gretl Urban is rightly counted among Adams' major works. The dreamy expression of the portrayed contrasts with the (exciting) preparation to leave the house in large evening toilette (perhaps to a Künstlerhaus ball). The sophisticated violet tone-on-tone combination of the dress and the interior, as well as the unusually narrow vertical format in the proportions 2:1 further enhances the appeal of the portrait. A comparison with Adams' portrait of her sister Hedwig Reichert (whose beauty, personifying the "Vindobona", was immortalized by her father in the Deutschmeister monument in Vienna) would be highly interesting, but alas is impossible because the Reichert portrait has so far been lost. It is to be hoped that it will be found again one day, in order to reunite the two sisters at least in this catalog.


1905 Künstlerhaus Vienna (KH EL 48 1904/05 #1585); awarded Archd. Karl-Ludwig Medal.

1986 Academy Schillerplatz Vienna 1986, Viennese Society in Portrait, Catalog No. 9.

2016 Neue Galerie New York.


Schaffer/Eisenburger 1986, exhibition catalog #9 (m.color ill.)

APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, p. 67, cat.#37, fig.#24.


Urban family Vienna.
Their family descendants. Private collection Vienna. Since ca. 1987 private collection USA.