Thursday 8 May 2014

Remembering Maria Lassnig

Maria Lassnig died on May 6 at the age of 94. Born in 1919 in Kappell in Austria, Lassnig studied in Vienna during WWII, but quickly broke with the school's conventional formalism and embraced abstraction. She eventually returned to figuration, but developed a unique  and revealing style of self-portraiture. In her paintings she usually appears naked, confounded, desperate, alarmed, often capturing a moment in extremis. Practising what she called 'body awareness' in her paintings, her figures usually appear against a white background - there is no context. She tried to paint the way her body felt to her from the inside, rather than attempting to depict it from without, often placing particular emphasis upon the disjunction between her own self-image and the way she is seen by others.

'It is certain that I do not paint and draw the object 'body' but that I do paint body feelings'.

'I step in front of the canvas naked, as it were. I have no set purpose, plan, model or photography. I let things happen. But I do have a starting-point, which has come from my realization that the only true reality are my feelings, played out within the confines of my body. They are physiological sensations: a feeling of pressure when I sit or lie down, feelings of tension and senses of spatial extent. These things are quite hard to depict'.

'The external world impinges on one so much nowadays that in reality one cannot depict anything else. So I make pictures of the imagination and the memory'.

Like so many women artists she had a late career but her reputation grew steadily over time as many young artists gravitated towards expressionist painting. There is an exhibition of her work at MoMA PS1 at the moment.

Remembrance of Buddy Frieberger, 1954 (oil on canvas)  - image taken from here

Madonna of the Pastries, 2002 (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

Zweifel (Doubts), 2004-05, (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

Krankenhaus (Hospital), 2005 (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

Du Oder Ich, (You or Me), 2005, (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

A self-portrait at the age of 86, wearing a startled expression while pointing a gun at her temple and one straight at the viewer. A promise of mutual destruction....

Bugbear, 2001 (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

image taken from here

Don Juan d'Austria, 2001 (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

The Illegitimate Bride, 2007, (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

image taken from here

Mein Teddy is Wirklicher als Ich (My Teddy is more Real than Me), 2002, (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

Drei Grazien (The Three Graces), 2011 (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

Schlafende (Sleepers),  2009 (oil on canvas)   - image taken from here

Finally, one more  photograph of the artist, taken from here.


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