Richard Gerstl anihilated all of his personal notices, so it is nearly impossible to draw an accurate picture of the artist. All that we know today is what friends and relatives told about him.
When Gerstl was still quite young he decide to become an artist, much to the dismay of his father. He had to leave the honourable "Piaristengymnasium" in Vienna due to "disziplinary difficulties", but that did not bother Gerstl too much. He wanted to attend the "Wiener Akademie" anyway.
In 1898 he was accepted on there. However his radical opinion regarding Style ( he categorically rejeced the secessionistic way of painting) rather irritated his secessionistic professor.
Gerstl interrupted his studies for 5 years. During this time he studied languages, philosophy and most of all music. He met musicians like Gustav Mahler or Arnold Schoenberg. In fact he was much closer to musicians than to his fellow painters.
The only exception was Viktor Hammer. Although he prefered a different style of painting than Gerstl, they both were almost friends, even though they never called themselves by their first names.
Hammer made it possible for him to join the special drawing school of Heinrich Lefler, but his academical carreer ended there, when Gerstl refused to take part in a parade to honour Emperor Franz Josef ( "unworthy for an artist": Gerstl ). Such failures led to Gerstls egoistic attitude. He despised the artists representative for the art of the time whereas he was quite convinced by his own work. However his work made him an outsider in Vienna.
His pictures were not symbolic (in contrast to those of Gustav Klimt), not pretentious,
wilder than anything Vienna had ever seen
In short Gerstl subordered the psychic experience to the optic one. However this optic experience was too strange to be appreciated in Austria.
Gerstl never ever exhibited any of his pictures during his lifetime. He came from a wealthy family, so he did not depend on commercial success, but he did depend on artistic appreciation. The facts that he did not get it and that his relationship to Schoenberg´s wife Mathilda Zemlinsky was doomed to failure added to artistic isolation. These were possibly the reasons for his suicide on the 4.th of November 1908.
60 paintings and 8 drawings of this " unrecognized genius" have been found to this day.