Wiener Schule des Phantastischen Realismus:
Vienna School of Phantastic Realism

The Hundertwasserhaus in the third district of Vienna - designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser

The „Vienna School of Phantastic Realism" is a term first used in the 1950ies by Johann Muschik to refer to a school of painting, prints and other forms of Austrian fine arts corresponding to surrealism. More importantly, the Phantastic Realism counterpoints abstract schools that dominated the art scene in the second half of the 20th century.

The style of the Phantastic Surrealists was inspired by those used by Baroque painters, with realistic elements and symbolic references to different mystic or religious traditions. These are often derived from Jewish and Christian as well as Gnostic scriptures.

The artists of the Vienna School of Phantastic Realism continued a line of figurative painters in Austria that is often (wrongly) considered to have ended in the 1920ies. The supposed "renaissance" of figurative painting in Germany in Austria since the 1990ies has led to an increased interest in the Phantastic Surrealists abroad of Austria. Within Austria, many of the members of the school were highly popular at least since the 1970ies.

Early Stage & Artists of the Phantastischer Realismus

A crucial moment in the history of the Phantastic Realism was an exhibition in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in 1959. This triggered a short period of international interest in this school, particularly in the graphic works.

At this early stage of the Phantastic Realism, the work of Albert Paris Gütersloh, who was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna back then, was probably the most shaping influence on the development of an independent style. Another important figure was the Surrealist painter Edgar Jene, who worked in Vienna between 1945 and 1950.

The most important artists of the Vienna School of Phantastic Realism are Arik Brauer, Ernst Fuchs, Rudolf Hausner, Wolfgang Hutter, Anton Lehmden, Arminio Rothstein, Fritz Aigner, Maitre Leherb and Walter Lasar. Friedensreich Hundertwasser is often considered to be a Phantastic Surrealist, too, but his work stands out in many ways - as it often neglects figurative aspects compared to works by the artists named above.

Where to See the Phantastic Realism

The Phantastic Realists were never as controversial as many of their contemporaries - think of the Viennese Actionists, who, at approximately the same time, defecated, masturbated and immersed themselves in the blood of freshly slaughtered animals in public. This might be the reason why many of the Phantastic Realists managed to establish themselves economically a long time before the actionists did.

To see works by the Vienna School of Phantastic Realism, watch out for exhibitions in Vienna. If there are none, try the Galerie Belvedere or, specifically for Ernst Fuchs, see the Hermesvilla on the edge of Vienna. Works by Hundertwasser can be found in the Kunsthaus Wien; architecture also in Bärnbach and the spa of Blumau.

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Further Reading

Wikipedia on the Vienna School of Phantastic Realism

Official Website of Ernst Fuchs

Official Website of Arik Brauer