Skip to content
Maria Lassnig - Artists - Petzel Gallery

Maria Lassnig was born in 1919 in Carinthia, Austria and passed away in 2014 in Vienna. Underappreciated for most of her life, Lassnig is now rightfully recognized as one of the most important Post-War painters.  

From a young age, Lassnig began to explore the human figure through drawing. She studied painting at the Vienna Fine Arts Academy but found the art scene at that time to be too limiting. She moved to Paris in 1960 and then to New York in 1968, continually exploring how to represent the body as it feels to inhabit rather than how it appears from the outside – a concept which Lassnig named Körperbewusstseinsmalerei (“body awareness painting”). On returning to her native Austria in 1980, she became the country’s first female professor of painting. She also taught animation during her time at the Vienna University of Applied Arts.

Her life’s work won her many accolades including the Grand Austrian State Prize in 1988 and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 2013 at the 55th Venice Biennale. She has been the subject of one person exhibitions at the Albertina Museum, Vienna; Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Kunsthaus Zurich; MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Serpentine Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; and Vienna Secession among others. Lassnig represented Austria in the 1980 Venice Biennale alongside Valie Export, and she participated in Documenta in Kassel, Germany in 1982 and 1997.

“I draw or paint a picture in a particular position: for example, sitting, leaning on one arm, you feel your shoulder blade; but, of the arm itself, only its upper portion, the palm of the hand, like the handle of a cane.”

– Maria Lassnig, 1970

Career Highlights

Maria Lassnig - Artists - Petzel Gallery

Maria Lassnig in her studio, Paris, 1961

1919 Born in Carinthia, Austria

1941-1944 Studies at the Academy for Applied Arts, Vienna

1945 Lassnig returns to Klagenfurt where her studio becomes a meeting place of artists and writers including Michael Gutten- brunner, Arnold Clementschitsch, Max Hölzer, and Arnold Wande.

1949 Lassnig creates her first body awareness drawings, which were referred to at the time as “introspective experiences.” She has one of her first solo exhibitions at Galerie Kleinmayr in Klagenfurt.

1951  Moves to Vienna and becomes a member of the so-called “hundsgruppe” (dog pack), a short lived spin off of the Art Club which included Ari Braur, Ernst Fuchs, Wolfgang Kurdnofsky, Arnulf Rainer, and others

Wins a scholarship to travel to Paris where she meets Paul Celan along with several representatives of Surrealism including, Anré Breton, Benjamin Péret, and Toyen.

1952  Influenced by art informel, Lassnig creates the series Amorphous Rhythms, Static Meditations, Active Disgust, Field Divisions. She returns to Paris and exhibits at Vienna’s Art Club gallery.

1961 Moves to Paris and has a studio on Rue de Bagnolet. Here she releases herself from stylistic constraints and begins painting large scale “body-awareness” figurations which points to the work that would later become synonymous with her name

1962 Develops narrative paintings with one or more figures which borrow from forms of science fiction.

1963 Participates in a group show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris.

1964 With the death of her mother, Lassnig plunges into an existential crisis and begins painting her so-called “weeping pictures” that express her grief and intense relationship with her mother.

1966-1968 Has several solo exhibitions and participates in numerous group exhibitions in Paris and Vienna.

1968 Moves to New York and sets up a studio in the East Village to be in, as she called it, “the country of strong women.” Though well-known in Austria, Lassnig was relatively unheard of in the United States, New York City offered her a liberation of sorts from the male-dominated art scene of Europe.

1971 Begins studying animated film at the School of Visual Arts and creates her first two films: Chairs and Selfportrait.

1972-1973 Is awarded the New York State Council Prize for her animated film Selfportrait. Continuing to explore animation and film, Lassnig makes Couples, Shape and Palmistry.

1974 Co-founds Women/Artist/Filmmakers, Inc. as a group of feminist filmmakers. The group in- cluded artists such a Martha Edelhait, Carolee Schneemann, Silvianna Goldsmith, and Rosalind Schneider.

1977  Wins the Award of the City of Vienna for Fine Art

The Albertina shows a retrospective of her graphic and cinematic work in their graphic collection

1978  Represents Austria at the Biennial in Venice with Valie Export

Receives a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and moves to Berlin

Begins creating more and more landscape drawings and watercolors as well as graphic body awareness and perception studies

Maria Lassnig - Artists - Petzel Gallery

Installation view, The Ninth Decade, Mumok, 2009

1982 Participates in documenta 7 in Kassel and has a solo exhibition that travels to Mannheimer

Kunstverein, Kunstverein Hannover, Kunstvere- in Munich, and Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf.

1985 The first major retrospective of Lassnig’s paintings opens at the Museum Moderner Kunst in Vienna.

1988 Awarded the Grand Austrian State Prize – marking the first time the honor has been given to a woman in the field of fine arts.

1992 Lassnig makes her final film, Maria Lassnig Kantate

1997  Lassnig formally retires from her professorship.

1998  Awarded the Oskar Kokoschka Prize

1999 Expands on her “Drastic Pictures”. The works explore major existential themes such as the tenuous relationship between men and women, impermanence, death, and destruction. She simultaneously works on her “Football Pictures”, inserting herself into a sport dominated by men.

2001 Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover hosts a major solo exhibition of Lassnig’s paintings.

2002 Awarded the Roswitha Haftmann Prize, followed by the Reubens Prize of the City of Siegen marking the first time that this award was given to a woman artist.

2005 - 2007 Creates her Nachtbilder paintings which she presents at an exhibition held in Serpentine Gallery in 2008

2009 Mumok in Vienna dedicates a solo exhibition to works by Lassnig made after the year 2000, while Cologne’s Ludwig Museum hosts an exhibition of Lassnig’s with a graphics.

2012 The Neue Galerie Graz / Universalmuseum Joanneum organizes a retrospective solo exhi- bition, incorporating some of Lassnig’s never before seen works. The show goes on to travel to the Deichtorhallen Hamburg in 2013 and MoMA PS1 in 2014.

2013 Awarded the 55th Venice Biennale Golden Li- ons for Lifetime Achievement

2014 Passes away at the age of 94

Installation view, The Ninth Decade, Mumok, 2009

Installation view, The Ninth Decade, Mumok, 2009

Installation view, Maria Lassnig, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2008

Installation view, Maria Lassnig, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2008

Installation view, Maria Lassnig: Bilder 1989 – 2001, Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover, 2001

Installation view, Maria Lassnig: Bilder 1989 – 2001, Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover, 2001