Baden bei Wien *1929
Rainer was born 1929 in Baden in Lower Austria. His artistic importance is undeniable. In the 1950ies he began to over paint pictures and to look for new ways of painting. This makes him one of the most important representatives of Austrian avantgarde and informel.
1947 to 1949 Rainer studied at the ”Staatsgewerbeschule”/public vocational school in Villach/Carinthia. In the beginning his work was surrealistic and figurative. In summer 1951 he visited together with Maria Lassnig André Breton in Paris. There he saw an exhibition of abstract expressionism and found his way to abstraction. He was influenced by the work of Jackson Pollock and Jean-Paul Riopelle and began with his overpaintings, the monochrome paitings in black. 1953 he made “blind paintings”.
1953 Arnulf Rainer met the catholic priest Monsignore Otto Mauer, a patron of Austrian Avantgarde, who founded the Galerie nächst St. Stephan in the following year. Rainer’s first solo exhibition took place in November 1955. His colleagues were Wolfgang Hollegha, Markus Prachensky and Josef Mikl.
Rainer experimented with drugs and made studies in psychiatric clinics. From 1955 on he began to overpaint photos of himself. This artistic approach is connected with the search for his own identity and the investigation of his own body language. His self-portraits, “Face Farces” and “Body Poses” are reminiscent of the Vienna Actionists/”Wiener Aktionisten”. Rainer also made expressive finger-paintings and big series with crosses, especially in the 1970ies.
Since 1977 death became a central theme of Rainer’s art. He did overpaintings of death masks, dead faces and depictions of crosses. 1981 he was appointed professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and head of the masterclass for painting. He taught until 1995. He received many honours and awards, like the ”Österreichischer Staatspreis für Malerei”/Austrian State Price for painting in 1978. 1981 the city of Frankfurt honoured him with the Max-Beckmann-Price. In the same year he became a member of the ”Akademie der Künste”/Academy of Arts in Berlin. 1972, 1977 and 1982 Rainer showed his work at the Documenta in Kassel.
1978 and 1980 he presented Austria at the Venice Biennale. 1989 the Guggenheim Museum New York dedicated a retrospective to Rainer. For his 70th birthday ”Kunstforum Wien”/Artforum Vienna organised a big retrospective for Arnulf Rainer. At his city of birth, Baden bei Wien, the Arnulf-Rainer-Museum was opened in 2009.
Most of the time Arnulf Rainer lives in Enzenkrichen, Upper Austria, where he has a farm, part of which he converted into a studio. During the cold season he works in Teneriffa.