Hermann Nitsch (1938 - 2022) held a pivotal role within the Viennese Actionists, a select group of avant-garde artists who, in the 1960s, triggered a profound shift in the art world by transcending conventional boundaries and challenging societal norms. Throughout his artistic career, Nitsch continued to employ this groundbreaking approach, embracing a holistic vision of artistic creation that engaged all five human senses, reminiscent of Wagner's concept of Gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork). This vision found its most significant expression in his creation of the Orgien Mysterien Theater.
These Dionysian displays, characterized by the blending of the eerie and the celebratory, presented intricate sacrificial ceremonies, vivid artistic creations, and lavish communal banquets, all harmonized with Nitsch's distinctive musical compositions. His paintings weren't distinct from these events; instead, they served as both their genesis and climax. Nitsch created his artworks by engaging his entire body, yielding expressive abstractions born from a profoundly physical and gestural method. The apparently disorderly and intense aspects of his art genuinely exalt existence and reflect the human essence.
An exhibition of Nitsch's later works will be on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris from October 11th, 2023, to February 12th, 2024. Concurrently, Opera Gallery Geneva invites you to explore a thoughtfully curated collection of Nitsch's paintings created between 2002 and 2021, offering a glimpse into the artistic journey of this pioneering and transformative artist.
“I want only to show what is. I never was interested to make provocation. I want to show intensity. And let's say, maybe in intensity is a kind of provocation, but for me it always is important to show life and to celebrate life.”
“Colour is the opposite of the night of nothingness. Colour is the glorious, radiant, laughing occurrence of being, all senses perceive through the tasting of the eye colour, being”.
“I want to feel that I'm alive. I want to be. I want to fully realise being. I think art is a way of intensity, a way of experiencing very intense feelings”.
“Red is the colour that most intensively arouses attention because it is simultaneously the colour of both life and death”.
“I like black a lot. There are many painters who say that 'black' is the king of colour.”
Hermann Nitsch, 40th Painting Action, Museum of the 20th Century (now Belvedere 21), Vienna 1997, © Hermann Nitsch, photo by Heinz Cibulka
Photo: copyright: Thomas Kolassa
Born in Vienna, Austria in 1938, Hermann Nitsch studied graphics at the Institute of Graphic Arts in his hometown. As a painter, performer, composer, photographer and scenographer, he was one of the most influential artists of his generation. He lived and worked at the Prinzendorf Castle in Austria. He passed on April 18th, 2022 in Mistelbach at the age of 83.
Recognized as a pivotal figure in the Viennese Actionism movement of the 1960s, Hermann Nitsch, continued to employ this groundbreaking approach to painting throughout his artistic journey, primarily through his creation of the Orgien Mysterien Theater, a concept akin to Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork). This comprehensive art form engages all five human senses and encourages profound existential contemplation. Hermann Nitsch crafted his paintings by engaging his entire body, making them both the genesis and culmination of his performances. Employing a blend of oil and acrylic paints in specific shades, he applied them to the canvas using unorthodox implements and his own hands, feet, and bodily movements, resulting in expressive abstractions that emerged through a highly physical and gestural process. Through these actions, Nitsch revealed his vibrant, spiritual, sensual, and fervent persona. The apparent chaos and violence that accompany his work actually serve as a celebration of life and a reflection of the human soul.
His artworks are permanently exhibited in the two Nitsch Museums located in Mistelbach, Austria and Naples, Italy as well as in the Nitsch Foundation in Vienna, Austria. His paintings are displayed in many major art galleries and museums in the world and are included in the permanent collections of the MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, in the Tate Gallery, London and in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam as well as in the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, just to name a few.