The Austrian artist Maria Lassnig (1919–2014) is considered one of the most important contemporary women painters. In her unsparing and at the same time humorous ‘Body Awareness Paintings’, which were created far from any stylistic and fashion trends, she reflected throughout her life on own self and developed a unique form of artistic expression between abstraction and figuration.
With seventy works from almost all her creative phases, the exhibition traces her path from outsider to one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.
I certainly do not paint or draw the body as an »object«,
I paint sensations of the body.«
At the age of twenty-one, Maria Lassnig began her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1940 and graduated in 1945. Her first solo exhibition followed in 1949 in Klagenfurt, where she also created her first ‘Body Awareness’ works.
From the 1960s onwards, she developed her own narrative forms that borrowed from science fiction: Body parts merge with objects and become geometric figures, at times in absurd, caricature-like sceneries. In 1968, she moved to New York, where she not only painted but also produced animated films. From 1980 onwards, Lassnig taught painting and animated film herself in Vienna and exhibited in the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1980). Five years later, the Museum moderner Kunst in Vienna presented her first retrospective. From the 1990s onwards, she achieved fame with her so-called ‘drastic paintings’, as well as with exhibitions all over Europe and the United States.
In 2014, Maria Lassnig died in Vienna at the age of ninety-four. After more than seventy creative years, she left behind an oeuvre of international renown.
The Klewan Collection - a personal insight into the art and body world of Maria Lassnig
The Munich-based gallerist and collector Helmut Klewan knew and appreciated the artist long before her fame. As a gallery owner, he has amassed a high-calibre collection over decades that encompasses a wealth of different styles, artists.
He cultivates a special relationship with artists from Austria: in 1970 Klewan opens his first gallery in Vienna, which becomes a stage for painter friends, including Arnulf Rainer, Christian Ludwig Attersee and Hermann Nitsch. Maria Lassnig, whom he met in 1976, is the only woman among his ‘Twelve Austrians’, as he calls them.
She always said, ‘Yes, it’s much harder to be a woman. You have to be twice as good to be recognized’. Emancipated women then used her as a famous figurehead. But she resisted this and said that there is no such thing as men’s art and women’s art:‘What nonsense, there is only good and bad art.’«
In 1981, he presented the first Lassnig exhibition in his gallery in Munich. Numerous other solo exhibitions followed, which contributed to Maria Lassnig finally receiving the recognition she deserved in the second half of her life.
The Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln is now presenting his extensive collection in an exhibition of its own. Through the long-standing relationship between the artist and the collector, the presentation offers personal insight into the extraordinary world of art and the body of Maria Lassnig, who captivates us with her radicalism and her very own Austrian humour.