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Maria Lassnig’s biography 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.

Maria Lassnig: The Biography
Author: Natalie Lettner
Translator: Jeffrey Crowder
Co-published English translation of Maria Lassnig’s Die Biografie (Brandstätter, 2017)
400 total pages
Publisher: Maria Lassnig Foundation, Friedrich Petzel Gallery, and Hauser & Wirth Publishers (HWP)