The Austrian State Gallery Society was founded in 1912 by Dr. Dörnhöffer, then director of the Austrian State Gallery. Its objective was to support the museum in its collecting activities by purchasing paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries (the contemporary art of the period). At its foundation, Paul Ritter von Schoeller was president of the society, Dr. Felix von Oppenheimer was vice-president, and the director of the Staatsgalerie was a member of the board. The member list included some 40 names from aristocracy and industry, among them Ferdinand Bloch (later Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer), Prince Johann von und zu Liechtenstein, Viktor Ritter von Mautner Markhof, Alexander Markgraf Pallavicini, and General Director Viktor Zuckerkandl.
The first painting the newly founded society purchased for the museum was On Corpus Christy Morning by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (listed then in the museum's holdings as Inv. No. LG1).
According to the group's first activity report, several of the gentlemen, among them Ferdinand Bloch, each acquired a lifelong membership by paying a very high one-off sum. The first women to join this exclusive circle were Hermine Wittgenstein (1916), sister of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1917).
The society grew steadily and in the 1920s its membership list covered several pages. In the years following, the society took care of all national museums, up until the year 2000: in this year, national museums were transformed into scientific institutions under public law, and, with the reorganization, the Friends of the Belvedere was established.