Friedensreich Hundertwasser – 1928-2000

by | 11. Jan 2015


hundertwasser_cover.jpgFriedensreich Hundertwasser – 1928-2000. Image courtesy Taschen

By Mathias Eckersberg

The first volume of Taschen’s  monograph on the widely celebrated and wildly controversial Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser – known for his colourful and child-like paintings and his organic architectural designs – paints a inspirational portrait of one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century.

The book’s author, art historian and longtime friend of Hundertwasser, Wieland Schmied, describes in great detail the life and works of the Austrian artist and architect. Originally, the book was released in a limited edition in 2002 after having been approved by Hundertwasser himself just months before his death in February 2000.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an unyielding idealist, who wanted people to live in harmony with nature. Throughout his career, he sought to advance this ecological agenda, and his interest in the natural and the organic is clearly expressed in his paintings – and later, also in his architectural designs.

hundertwasser_cat_raisone-5.jpgHundertwasser before the opening of his exhibition at Studio Paul Facchetti, Paris, 1954. Image courtesy Taschen

Hundertwasser started exhibiting his paintings in the early 1950s in Vienna, and it quickly garnered him a lot of attention, as his work bore very little resemblance aesthetically with other artists of that period.

The general artistic discourse in Europe around that time  was dominated by functionality and rationality.  Hundertwasser, however, was inspired by children’s stories and the natural growth of organic forms and his style could be described as Art Nouveau painted with childlike naïvety. He portrayed the world using vivid colours and irregular forms and more than anything, he resented the ruler – and the straight lines it produced.

hundertwasser_cat_raisone-4.jpg‘The Endless City’ by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Image courtesy Taschen

Hundertwasser, the architect

Through his numerous manifestos and essays, as well as his many demonstrations, he advocated a more humanistic and environmentally friendly architecture – one that incorporated irregular forms and features from natural landscapes in his architectural designs. Again, nature was his main source of inspiration:

All Hundertwasser’s architectural ideas were based on the close link between mankind and nature or the loss of this connection, which had to be reinstated at all costs.
Wieland Schmied

It was important to Hundertwasser that his constructions were organic and in accordance with the laws of nature and, like his paintings, his buildings are also painted in vivid colours and completely devoid of straight lines and right angles.

Schmied dedicates an entire chapter to presenting Hundertwasser’s most famous buildings with gorgeous page-to-page colour photos and a detailed description of how his architectural visions are transformed into reality. Hundertwasser was notoriously dogmatic and followed his own theoretical principles word for word.

So, though some of the elements of his buildings may seem arbitrary and random, every last detail are based on strict sets of principles and thoughts that Hundertwasser developed over the course of his expansive career.

hundertwasser_cat_raisone-1.jpg‘Little Palace of Illness in Beauty’ by  Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Image courtesy Taschen

Whether or not you appreciate Hundertwasser’s artistic style, his sustainable principles are highly compelling and should warrant consideration by architects today. He pleaded that buildings should be for humans while also assimilating to the natural world.

Overall, Friedensreich Hundertwasser 1928-2000 paints Hundertwasser as a principled and truly unique artist with a distinctive style and an admirable approach to the world around him, which made him one of the fascinating artists of the 20th century.

hundertwasser_cat_raisone.jpgPresentation of the model of the Hundertwasser House, Vienna, c. 1980; Photograph: Bernd Lötsc. Image courtesy Taschen