Otto Neurath

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Otto Neurath (1882, Vienna – 1945, Oxford) was an Austrian economist, economic-historian, Wiener-Kreis philosopher and briefly a politician (he served as a minister under the Bavarian Council Republic). Before he was to flee his native country in 1934, Neurath was one of the leading figures of the Vienna Circle.

In 1924, he opened the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum (GeWiMu) in Vienna, where he devised the Wiener method of visual statistics or isotypes. His objective was to help workers become aware of the economic reality. Two years afterwards he encountered the artist Gerd Arntz, known primarily as a member of the Cologne Progressives group, who settled in Vienna in 1929 to elaborate Neurath’s ideas. When Neurath established the sister institute Isostat in Moscow, Arntz joined him there for extended periods. In 1934 both their operations in Vienna and Moscow were discontinued almost simultaneously. After the civil war in February, the Austro-fascist government of Dolfuss shut down the red GeWiMu – located in the Volkshalle of the Viennese town hall. In Moscow the Isostat fell out of favour, when socialist realism prevailed over ‘anonymity’ and the ‘Western, constructivist, decadent designs.’

Both Neurath and Arntz fled to The Hague, where they compiled statistics for N.W. Posthumus (founder of the International Institute of Social History) in the years 1932-36. In May 1940 Neurath escaped to London, where he ran his fourth institute, the Isotype Institute, from 1942 until his death in 1945. Gerd Arntz took a job at the CBS and attended the review exhibition of his work at the Haags Gemeentemuseum in 1975. (from a newsletter of the International Institute of Social History)

Gerd Arntz, Otto Neurath, et al., Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft: Bildstatistisches Elementarwerk, 1930, Log, PDF.
International Picture Language: The First Rules of Isotype, 1936, Log, PDF.


  • Modern Man in the Making, Alfred A. Knopf, 1939, 160 pp; repr., facs., Zürich: Lars Müller, 2024. Publisher. (English)
  • From Hieroglyphics to Isotype: A Visual Autobiography, eds. Matthew Eve and Christopher Burke, Hyphen Press, 2011, 224 pp. (English)


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