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Maria Lassnig
Maria Lassnig, 1919 — 2014

Maria Lassnig (b. 1919, Kappel am Krappfeld, Austria – d. 2014, Vienna, Austria) was an Austrian artist who developed a singular body of art based around the human figure. Lassnig, who taught and lived in Vienna from 1980 until her death, created vividly expressive oil paintings using herself as the center. Influenced early on by movements celebrating gestural, informal and spontaneous practice such as art informeltachisme and surrealism, Lassnig's paintings address the fragility of the body, the ageing process and the passing of time. In 2013, Lassnig was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 55th Venice Biennale.

Lassnig attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna during World War II, later moving to Paris in 1951 where she met such surrealists as André Breton and the poet Paul Celan. Though Lassnig began painting abstract works, she began to focus on the human body and psyche in the 1960s, often depicting her own body or face in bright pastel colors with a slightly averted gaze. 

From 1968 to 1980, Lassnig lived in New York City. During this time she made a series of short films. She later returned to Vienna to become a professor at the Vienna University of Applied Arts, where she taught painting until the late nineties. 

Despite falling into obscurity for many years, Lassnig has played a significant role in the development of 20th and 21st century painting. Her work has been critically acclaimed for inspiring artists such as Paul McCarthy and Martin Kippenberger. She was the first female artist to win the Grand Austrian State Prize in 1988 and was awarded the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art in 2005.

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Maria Lassnig – Timothy Taylor