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Hundertwasser, Friedensreich (1928 - 2000)

Friedensreich Hundertwasser is one of Austria’s most famous avant-garde artists. His artworks reflect his philosophy and "weltanschauung" which are based on a harmonious interaction between nature and man.


Copyright: KunstHausWien

Copyright: KunstHausWien


Hundertwasser was born in Vienna on December 15, 1928 as Friedrich Stowasser. In 1951, aged 23, he was sufficiently important to be admitted to the Art Club of Vienna, and four years later he began his lifelong foreign travel, at first to locations where his work was exhibited, but later to destinations in Africa, Tahiti, Asia and the Pacific.

In 1959, together with the painters Arnulf Rainer and Ernst Fuchs, he develops a new program for artists called “Das Pintorarium”. At the Seckau monastery in Styria Hundertwasser for the first time presented his “Moldiness Manifesto”, a document that enjoyed great popularity during the heyday of the counter-culture. In his “Los von Loos” (Break away from Loos;1968) manifesto he denounced the aridity and rigid aesthetics in art, and provocatively demanded more beauty and more kitsch.
Hundertwasser also spoke up for general issues and concerns such as the preservation of the Hainburg marshlands near Vienna (1984), and fought against nuclear power plants. Even as an aged man he went out into the streets for a national, that is independent of the EC, design of number plates, and in 1993 strongly protested against Austria’s planned accession to the EC. Whatever Hundertwasser spoke out for, he advocated strong, autonomous, authentic, headstrong, and “green” views.

In 1959 Hundertwasser lectured at the Academy of Arts in Hamburg; from 1981 he held a master class at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In addition to his splendid atelier in Vienna, Hundertwasser has workshops and homes in a remote mill in Lower Austria, in the Normandy, at Guidecca in Venice, and, in his last decades, in Kanui / Bay of Islands in New Zealand.

Hundertwasser died from a heart attack on February, 19, on board the Queen Elizabeth II. According to his wishes he was buried in harmony with nature on his land in New Zealand, in the Garden of the Happy Deads, under a tulip tree.

His work
Hundertwasser can be considered a "colorist" painter, as color is an essential, if not overriding element of all his work. He uses highly saturated colors regardless of subject matter. He often paints while "on the road", using a pocket watercolor box or powdered pigments. He also frequently employs egg tempera, adding metallic dust; cloth or paper fragments; earth, ground glass or pottery; and finishing the piece with a thin glaze of oil.

The wide range of objects Hundertwasser designed – such as wall calendars, an edition of the bible and the great Brockhaus lexicon, wrist watches, china, writing paper, wood and other material – have made the artist an omnipresent representative of applied arts in their truest sense. Hundertwasser’s works were influenced by the English “Arts and Crafts Movement” of the 19th century as well as the Jugendstil style of the “Wiener Werkstätten” at the beginning of the 20th century.

A world full of color", says Friedensreich Hundertwasser, "is synonymous with paradise", a maxim that characterises the whole of the artist's architectural work. Hundertwasser's revolutionary architectural ideas also include topping buildings with trees and areas where animals can graze, and creating floor surfaces that are unlevel. Hundertwasser has designed many buildings in Austria and around the world, including museums, schools and churches, which gained him notoriety for his radical philosophies and outrageous antics.

Hundertwasser’s manifestos and ideas were rooted in ecological views long before they were generally acknowledged. The artist always stood for organic ways of living, with colors and shapes tuned to the natural and the human.