Count Johann Nepomuk Wilczek

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Johann Nepomuk Graf Wilczek
Hans Graf Wilczek (Wiener Bilder 1907).png
Hans Graf Wilczek, photo by Carl Pietzner (around 1906)
Born (1837-12-07)7 December 1837
Vienna, Austrian Empire
Died 27 January 1922(1922-01-27) (aged 84)
Vienna, Austria

Count (Graf) Johann Nepomuk (Hans) Wilczek (7 December 1837 – 27 January 1922) was an Austrian arctic explorer and patron of the arts. He was the main sponsor of the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition in 1872–74.


Born in Vienna, young Hans Wilczek studied archaeology, art history and natural sciences. In 1863 he travelled to Russia, including Crimea and the Caucasus. Then, in 1866, he enlisted in the Austro-Prussian War as a volunteer. Between 1868 and 1870 he travelled across Africa.

Expedition ship Admiral Tegethoff near Barents Island

From 1872 to 1874, he provided for the S/X Admiral Tegetthoff research vessel and elaborate preparations of the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition, led by Julius Payer and Karl Weyprecht from 1872 to 1874. He contributed with an amount that was significantly greater than the funds contributed by the second largest sponsor of the venture, Hungarian Count Ödon Zichy (1811–1894). Wilczek himself led a preliminary expedition to Barentsøya and the mouth of the Pechora River in order to store up depots, accompanied by the photographer Wilhelm J. Burger. In 1874 the ship's crew of the Admiral Tegethoff discovered the Franz Josef Land archipelago and named Wilczek Land and Wilczek Island in his honour.

From 1875 onwards, Count Wilczek held the title of President of the Austrian Geographical Society in order to promote the construction of weather stations in the Arctic. The Austrian polar station on Jan Mayen Island was built and equipped in 1882 fully at his own costs.

As promoter of the fine arts, Count Wilczek was the founder of the "Viennese Society of Art Lovers" (Gesellschaft der Wiener Kunstfreunde).[1] He also backed the equipment of the Vienna Museum of Military History as a member of the board of trustees. From 1874 to 1906 he had Kreuzenstein Castle reconstructed according to plans designed by architect Carl Gangolf Kayser. This monumental mansion north of Vienna is now a museum that houses his extensive art collections. In 1886 Wilczek purchased Moosham Castle in the Salzburg Lungau region.

Count Wilczek died in Vienna. He is buried in the family crypt in the Kreuzenstein castle chapel.