Painting. As in the fields of architecture and sculpture, the development of painting in Austria is characterized by a large degree of individuality and independence from other countries, with four regions - Vienna/Lower Austria, Salzburg, the Tirol and Carinthia - becoming most notable for their styles in the course of history.
On Magdalensberg hill in the province of Carinthia some frescoes have survived that form part of the most outstanding artistic remains of that time (20-15 B.C.). Some Roman mosaics (e.g. at the excavation site of Carnuntum, Lower Austria) also date from that early period. Except for a few works dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, however, mosaic art was rather neglected in Austria in later periods.
After the caesura caused by the migration of the Germanic tribes, Austrian artists gradually began to develop their own ways of artistic expression and rose to international importance particularly during the late phases of their respective periods (Danube School, Late Baroque, Vienna Secession).
The first works of early medieval art were created in the context of Christianisation. Apart from outstanding examples of manuscript illumination and the arts and crafts, the oldest murals (8th century) of the western world outside the Byzantine and Roman sphere of cultural influence have survived at Naturns in South Tirol* . One of the few artistic relics of the Carolingian and Ottonian period that survived repeated assaults by the Hungarians and Avars is St. Benedict´s Church at Mals (in South Tirol* ) dating from the 9th century.
In comparison with other countries Austria has an enormous number of Romanesque murals and manuscript illuminations (fragments or whole cycles of frescoes in more than 50 churches and chapels). During the Romanesque period murals and manuscript illuminations were two fields of artistic activity closely connected with each other. The walls of many Romanesque churches and chapels were covered with cycles of frescoes depicting the story of Christian salvation. At that time the town of Salzburg was the main centre of painting and a highly developed form of manuscript illumination, mainly shaped by Byzantine influences and brought to Salzburg via Aquileia, gave a decisive impetus to wall painting. In Salzburg a number of murals have been preserved, for example those in the convent of Nonnberg (around 1140). The frescoes at Lambach (Upper Austria, around 1070-1090, the most outstanding cycle of frescoes in Austria dating from that time), Pürgg (Styria, middle of the 12th century) and Friesach (Carinthia, first half of the 12th century) were either painted by Salzburg artists or decisively influenced by the style prevalent in that town. Many examples of Romanesque murals can be found in South Tirol* (at Burgeis, 12th century; in the chapel of Hocheppan Castle around 1200). There are also some excellent examples of Romanesque stained glass in Austria (e.g. at Weitensfeld, Carinthia, around 1170; at Ardagger, Lower Austria, around 1240; in the monastery of Heiligenkreuz, Lower Austria, late 13th century).
Created during the second half of the 13th century, at the transition from Romanesque to Gothic style, the frescoes in the Cathedral of Gurk are among the major works of the so-called "pointed style" (the edges of the frescoes follow a sort of zigzag pattern).
With the introduction of the skeleton construction in church architecture and the resulting loss of surface area wall painting suffered a decline during the Gothic period. Stained glass, however, became increasingly popular and gained international renown through the works of the Vienna Court Workshops in the second half of the 14th century (e.g. stained glass windows in St. Stephen´s Cathedral donated by the Habsburgs around 1390).
As well as stained glass, panel painting came to the fore in the course of the 14th century. Among the most impressive works of art of that time rank the scenes painted on the rear panels of the Verdun Altar (1330/31) which show traces of western influence.
In the course of the 14th century Austrian painting became particularly dependent on the then prevalent Bohemian forms of art. The portrait of Rudolf IV (around 1365, exhibited in the Vienna Diocesan Museum) constitutes the second oldest well-preserved portrait of occidental painting.
While 14th century High Gothic painting shows elements of a more spiritual courtly style which reached its climax around 1400 with the introduction of an idealizing style particularly prevalent in and around Vienna ("weicher Stil"), 15th century Late Gothic art was marked by both bourgeois influences and the struggle of painters to depict the real world. Artists like those who created the votive plaque at St. Lambrecht, the Friedrich Altar and the Andreas Altar were still exponents of the "weicher Stil", which did not suffer a decline in Austria until the 1530s. Under the influence of Dutch painting works were created around the middle of the 15th century that were marked by great attention to naturalistic detail and realistic attitudes and postures. Biblical events were often painted against the background of local landscapes and towns (e.g. Vienna and Krems) serve as a background to the scenes depicted at the Vienna Schottenaltar, 1469-1475). The towns of Vienna (masters of the Albrecht Altar and the Schottenaltar), Salzburg (C. Laib, R. Frueauf the Elder), as well as the province of the Tirol including South Tirol* (master of Uttenheim) constituted the main centres of artistic activity. Wall painting experienced a revival in the 15th century, particularly in the provinces of the Tirol (cloisters at Brixen/Bressanone in South Tirol* , Runkelstein Palace in South Tirol* ) and Carinthia (Thomas of Villach). At that time artists began to develop typical regional variations of style which were particularly influenced by the Dutch school of painting (Vienna, Lower Austria and Salzburg) and Italian Early Renaissance (Tirol and Carinthia).
The most outstanding late 15th century painter was M. Pacher, who managed to create a highly personal style in his mural and panel paintings by using elements of both the Dutch and Italian schools.
Created by the co-operation of painters, sculptors and architects, the numerous well-preserved winged altars constitute an outstanding feature of European painting (e.g. the altar created by Pacher at St. Wolfgang, Upper Austria, 1471-1481).
Due to the invention of woodcuts and book printing, manuscript illumination suffered a serious decline in the course of the 15th century. Only very few outstanding illuminations were created later (e.g. "Rationale des Duranti", 1385-1406), which largely owed their existence to a handful of persons pursuing antiquarian or scholarly interests. The genealogical works of Emperor Maximilian I ("Weißkunig", "Theuerdank" and "Freydal") are worth mentioning in this respect.
The specific style of the Danube School was developed at the beginning of the 16th century at the transition from the Late Gothic period to the era of Renaissance art. The Danube School had a significant influence on the creation of the first real landscape paintings in which nature did not only serve as a setting for portrait and figure compositions (W. Huber). Paintings by Danube School artists constitute the first form of popular art in Austria, with the refinement of woodcut prints being decisive for the familiarization of a greater public with these works.
Only very few works have been preserved from the period of Renaissance art, among which the most outstanding are murals painted by means of the sgraffito technique on the walls of burghers´ homes (e.g. at Retz, Eggenburg, Horn, Weitra and Krems, Lower Austria).
Portraiture (e.g. by J. Seisenegger) constituted an equally important form of art at that time. During the Late Renaissance and Early Baroque periods, the work of Austrian painters was probably not so insignificant as it might appear, but most of the artistic production was lost on account of the struggles of the Reformation and the Thirty Years´ War. The handful of paintings which have survived were mostly created by artists who had come to Austria from abroad (especially from Italy).
The victory of the Catholic Church in the Counter-Reformation put an end to the effects of Protestant iconoclasm and the prevention of an invasion by the Turks towards the end of the 17th century enabled artistic activity in Austria to flourish again. During the High and Late Baroque (around 1680-1740, Baroque) Austrian art reached the peak of its creativity. As the political power of the emperors increased steadily, Austrian art flourished as it had never done before. The centres of this artistic flowering, which was marked by outstanding paintings (especially in the field of wall painting), were the Emperor´s residence in Vienna, the residences of the Princes of Graz and Salzburg, as well as the residences of the Prince Archbishops in Salzburg. The Austrian monasteries and particularly the Benedictine monks also began to promote artistic activities (e.g. in the monasteries of Melk and Altenburg). While large numbers of foreign artists were coming to Austria and especially to Vienna, many outstanding Austrian artists (e.g. J. M. Rottmayr, M. and B. Altomonte, D. Gran, P. Troger) who mainly concentrated on mural and panel painting emerged on the scene. P. continued to flourish until the end of the 18th century. The leading artists in the field of painting, which held a position superior to the other forms of visual art, were F. A. Maulbertsch, M. J. Schmidt, J. W. Bergl, J. C. Brand, M. v. Meytens (in Vienna and Lower Austria), J. F. Fromiller (in Carinthia), J. C. Hackhofer (in Styria) and K. Waldmann (in the Tirol).
Early Historicism, which mainly adhered to classical principles, became especially important in Vienna, where it initiated the heyday of the Vienna Academy (marked by the works of F. H. Füger, J. B. Lampi the Elder, J. P. Krafft). At the beginning of the 19th century a movement which called itself Brotherhood of St. Luke (also referred to as Nazarenes) began to form. This group was strongly influenced by 16th century German and High Renaissance Italian painting and thus opposed the use of classical elements. The works of its members (e.g. J. Scheffer von Leonhardshoff, J. v. Führich) dealt mainly with religious subjects.
The most outstanding representatives of Romantic monumental painting were Führich, L. Kupelwieser and M. v. Schwind, who included the southern regions of Germany in his sphere of activity.
During the Biedermeier period intimate, small-sized panel paintings, as well as watercolours, genre paintings (by P. Fendi, C. Schindler, J. Danhauser), portraits (by F. v. Amerling, J. Kriehuber) and landscape paintings (by F. Gauermann, T. Ender) flourished. The Biedermeier style was, however, eventually superseded by the works of the period´s leading Austrian painter, F. G. Waldmüller.
During the second half of the 19th century painters tried to revive Baroque richness in colour and form in their large-scale panel paintings and frescoes which were particularly appreciated for their decorative aspect. The leading artists of this period were H. Makart, C. Rahl and H. Canon.
New ground was broken by A. Romako and T. v. Hörmann, who decisively influenced a group of artists (e.g. M. Egner, O. Wisinger-Florian, T. Blau-Lang) led by E. J. Schindler, which became known as the Austrian School of "Mood Impressionist" Painting (Stimmungsimpressionismus). Outstanding painters of 19th century Late Historicism were A. v. Pettenkofen and F. Defregger, as well as a family of painters and graphic artists by the name of Alt.
Due to the artistic activities of the Vienna Secession Austrian painting gained great international renown around 1900. Vienna became one of the centres Jugendstil in Europe at a time which was also marked by the emergence of painters´ associations like the Vienna Secession, the Hagenbund and the Künstlerhaus. Due to the variety of art journals and the activities of the Wiener Werkstätte, the art of book illustration also received a fresh impetus.
The most evident characteristic of the Vienna Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) is the use of flat geometrical forms which was to become one of the most important principles underlying 20th -century abstract painting. Next to the most outstanding Art Nouveau painter G. Klimt, C. Moll and K. Moser also adhered to this new style. Starting out as members of the Vienna Secession movement, E. Schiele, O. Kokoschka and the long neglected R. Gerstl became the leading representatives of Austrian Expressionism. After World War I they were joined by A. Kolig, A. Faistauer and H. Boeckl. Another painter who influenced Austrian Expressionism was the Tyrolean artist A. Egger-Lienz.
Between World War I and World War II Austrian painting was marked by expressionist and new functionalist tendencies, as well as by the introduction of new international styles such as Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism, while abstract painting was of little significance in Austria during the early years of the 20th century. The best-known Austrian painters of the period were W. Thöny, B. Koller-Pinell, F. Zülow, R. Wacker, J. Floch, F. Lerch, A. Birkle, M. Oppenheimer, O.Laske, C.Hauser, A. P. Gütersloh, O. R. Schatz, S. Pauser and J. Dobrowsky, to name but a few.
The predominantly graphic works of A. Kubin became fundamental to the development of international Surrealism in the 1930s.
During these years some artists (e.g. A. Kolig, A. Faistauer) also strove to revive wall painting in both churches and secular buildings. Contributing to this trend, H. Boeckl painted frescoes at the monastery of Seckau (Styria) after World War II.
The years of the annexation of Austria by the German Reich (1938-1945) were marked by a form of art which idealized Nazi convictions. Some of the most outstanding artists (e.g. O. Kokoschka, A. P. Gütersloh) were condemned as producing "degenerated art" and many artists were driven into exile.
The years after 1945 were marked by a variety of highly diverse trends which sometimes developed parallel to each other.
1947 saw the founding of the Vienna Art-Club, in which many important artists started their career.
The works of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism (A. P. Gütersloh, E. Fuchs, R. Hausner, W. Hutter, A. Lehmden, A. Brauer), a late Austrian form of Surrealism, and the decorative/abstract paintings of F. Hundertwasser made Austrian art famous throughout the world in the decades following World War II.
In the middle of the 1950s some artists who were closely connected to the "Galerie nächst St. Stephan" art gallery managed by Monsignor O. Mauer became the main representatives of Austrian abstract painting. The leading painters among them were W. Hollegha, J. Mikl and M. Prachensky.
Another famous representative of abstract painting was M. Weiler, for whom abstraction was not an end in itself but a means to transform real nature.
After World War II "informal painting", which had originated in France and the United States, also became popular in Austria. The main representatives of this style, which was marked by striking colourfulness and expressiveness, were M. Lassnig and O. Oberhuber.
Apart from informal painting, existentialist tendencies came to the fore which made human existence the main topic. In this respect mention should be made of the leading contemporary Austrian painter of world renown, A. Rainer. Since the beginning of the 1950s he has concerned himself with the overpainting of prints and photographs. By painting and exhibiting his body his work was akin to the performances initiated by a group of artists who came to be known under the label of Wiener Aktionismus (R. Schwarzkogler, G. Brus, H. Nitsch, O. Mühl). This group combined various forms of art in its works, which mostly deal with sexuality, pain and death.
As in the case of abstract painting, various styles and techniques were developed in the fields of representational art, portrait and landscape painting after World War II.
Expressionist tendencies in the works of O. Kokoschka, H. Boeckl, G. Eisler, F. Elsner, H. Fronius, F. Stransky and M. Melcher greatly influenced contemporary Austrian painting.
Founded in 1968 a group of artists called "Wirklichkeiten" (P. Pongratz, F. Ringel, R. Zeppel-Sperl, K. Kocherscheidt, M. Jungwirth, W. Herzig) presented a completely new style that was influenced by paintings of mental patients.
The painters (A. Walla, O. Tschirtner, J. Hauser) belonging to the artists´ colony of the mental hospital at Gugging (Lower Austria) set the trend for further generations of Austrian artists. But it was only in the 1980s that these painters (known as "Gugginger") received world-wide acclaim.
The works by A. Frohner, who started out as a member of Actionism, as well as the prints and paintings by the sculptor A. Hrdlička are excellent examples of "corporeal realism". Another famous artist worth mentioning is C. L. Attersee, whose works have already gained international renown.
Contemporary Austrian painting is marked by a variety of individual styles, while artists´ movements and associations have lost their influence in Austria. The most outstanding representatives of the younger generation of Austrian painters are S. Anzinger, E. Bohatsch, E. Caramelle, G. Damisch, A. Klinkan, A. Mosbacher, G. Rockenschaub, R. Scheidl, H. Scheibl, H. Schmalix and J. Zechner, to name but a few. Some of them became known as members of a movement that called itself "neue Wilde".
In recent years new tendencies have evolved in painting since artists are more and more trying to combine painting with photography, film, video and computerized art.
Literature: R. Feuchtmüller, Kunst in Österreich, 2 vols., 21972/73.
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