Paintings by Rudolf von Alt, Gustav Klimt and Alfons Walde, along with a rare series of pictures of Austro-Hungarian warships, are scarcely the norm for a private collection in Ireland. Equally remarkable is the biography of the collector himself: a pioneering spirit who acquired these artworks with enthusiasm, profound knowledge and a keen eye for quality.
Otto Glaser was just shy of twelve years old when he arrived at Blackrock College in Dublin in 1938. Initially, his command of Latin served him better for communication than the meagre English vocabulary he had recently acquired.
He was a refugee: in astute anticipation of the unfolding political developments, his parents had sent their only son to Ireland on the final Kindertransport. His father, Otto senior, was of Jewish descent and had served as a civil servant in the Ministry of Finance during Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg’s administration in Austria. Shortly after the Nazi regime’s takeover, Otto senior was deported to the Dachau concentration camp, which he was lucky to survive. Otto’s mother, Anna Glaser, a devout Catholic, managed not only to secure her son’s passage to Ireland but also to deliver him to the care of Blackrock College, a Catholic institution where he rapidly gained recognition as an exceptional student. After completing his secondary education, he was awarded a scholarship to University College Dublin, from which he graduated in 1946 with a Master of Science degree in Physics and Chemistry.
In 1947, Otto Glaser was finally able to return to Vienna to be with his parents and completed his studies, earning his doctorate in atomic physics. While he maintained a lifelong connection to Austria and the legacy of a cultured, innovative continental Europe, his professional career and personal home were in Ireland. Starting in the 1950s, he played a pivotal role in the economic development of the country as a technical innovator and entrepreneur. Glaser became a
trailblazer in telecommunications. In 1951, he established his own manufacturing research company, Technico. A few years later, he founded Telectron, which, by the early 1980s, had become one of the country’s most prominent companies, employing some 800 people. He later sold Telectron to the American telecommunications giant AT&T. Alongside his profession, Glaser found time for a variety of other activities. He was, among other things, president of the Irish-Austrian Society and a keen sailor. In 1974 he won a Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) regatta in a boat he had designed himself. He was also a keen collector of Austrian and maritime art – a passion that took him regularly to Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the Hotel Imperial in Vienna, as well as to Vienna’s art dealing circles. It was there that he acquired the paintings that would remind him of his homeland, even when he was in Ireland.
Rudolf von Alt’s unique view of the magnificent Upper Belvedere; delicate watercolours by the same artist and his father Jakob show- ing the ships in Venetian harbours, always bearing the Austrian flag; naval battle scenes involving the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Navy, which Otto Glaser commented on and studied extensively … all of these are a testament to his deep attachment to Austria’s storied past. Gustav Klimt’s Tafelfreude (Delight at Table), a won- derfully airy study for the theatre in Karlsbad, and his portrait of ladies probably reminded the collector of the cultured, old Vienna elegance he had experienced as a child. Also taking pride of place in Glaser’s house on Dublin Bay: Alfons Walde’s Auracher Kirchlein (Little Church in Aurach), a much-loved souvenir from the collec- tor’s favourite holiday destination, Tyrol.