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Maria Lassnig


Maria Lassnig’s biography by Natalie Lettner, documents her boundary-breaking journey as an artist, from her humble beginnings in Austria to her exposure to international art in the 1940s, and on to New York, where, together with Louise Bourgeois, she plunged into the exploding women’s movement there. Lassnig caused a sensation with numerous solo exhibitions, from the Venice Biennale to the Documenta to the MoMA in NY.

Lassnig’s story is both exemplary and extraordinary for a woman of her generation—exemplary in terms of the hurdles and pitfalls that women in general, and female artists in particular, had to face in those years. She struggled her whole life against the usual stereotypes about women: in her youth, against her mother’s desire that she “marry up”; in relationships with men, against the requirement of putting her own needs aside to nurture and care for her partner’s ego; in the art business, against having to play the role of the sweet and pretty girl; as a university teacher, against having to play the “mother figure”; and as an old woman, against the image of “odd old lady” and the “grande dame.”

Even though she herself wanted to be an artist, not a female artist, her life story is extraordinary because she was finally, despite it all, able to assert herself as an artist and a woman due to her outstanding talent, her persistence, and her single-mindedness.


Publisher: Maria Lassnig Foundation, Petzel Gallery, and Hauser & Wirth Publishers (HWP), 2022

Co-published English translation of Maria Lassnig's Die Biografie (Brandstätter, 2017)

Language ‏ : ‎ English

Flexibound: 400 pages

Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.44 inches

ISBN: 978-3906915524



About the artist

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.