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Collection Hannes Schwarz

Collection Hannes Schwarz

Hannes Schwarz (1926-2014) – memorial exhibition in Admont Abbey Museum

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To mark the death of the painter and humanist Hannes Schwarz, Admont Abbey Museum is staging a special exhibition. With the addition of loaned works, a selection of 24 oil paintings and 68 prints will be on display that were donated to Admont Abbey by the artist in 2002.

Schwarz MolacekHannes Schwarz was one of the most eminent of the artists based in Styria of the post-war period. His oeuvre is the result of his critical interpretation of the history of his time ‒ specifically the poisonous ideology of National Socialism.

Hannes Schwarz was born to a working-class family living in Anger near Weiz in Styria in 1926; their poverty meant that they could not afford to provide him with higher education. He was taught by his father, a supporter of the Social Democratic party, and his strictly religious mother and grew up in an impoverished rural setting. Even while he was still young, Hannes Schwarz’s extraordinary intellectual, artistic and athletic skills were apparent. In order to ensure that he would be able to take up a profession, in 1938 his parents reluctantly agreed to allow him to go the Nazi-run elite school Ordensburg in Sonthofen that was used to train future party cadres. Its ideological perspective was in complete conflict with that of his family, which actively protected a family of Jews while Austria was under the Nazi regime. On graduating in 1944, Hannes Schwarz planned to become a painter. He passed the examination for admission to the Stuttgart Academy but was soon sent to the front.

As the atrocities of the war finally came to an end in 1945, the intellectual outlook of Hannes Schwarz took a completely new direction; it was as if he had awoken from a nightmare. He became interested in Existentialism and the Frankfurt School, in informal and abstract art. His artistic skills were mainly self-taught. As he was able to earn his living as an art teacher, he was able to steer his own artistic course apart from the mainstream and avoid the turbulences of outside artistic movements.

From 1955, abstraction and the informal became increasingly important for his work. He began work on a series of highly innovative object prints in 1959. His images produced in the 1960s are dominated by surrealistically modelled female figures, expressively deformed bodies behind bars and helpless humans experiencing suffering. The hopeless, doomed and isolated creatures in his works of the early 1970s disappeared during a creative phase around 1975 in which his focus turned away from the depiction of the human form.

The images of Hannes Schwarz were shaped by his experience of the horrors of National Socialism. In some of his work phases, apparent relics of the Fascist period appear, such as images of flags, banners, walls, monuments, slabs and sacrificial altars. The art of Hannes Schwarz had its origin in metaphysical adversity. Underlying its often horror-inducing aesthetic can be sensed the spirit of reflection, scepticism and warning. As Wilfried Skreiner has remarked, the malformed figures produced by Schwarz are contemporary with, and in some cases predate, those painted by Francis Bacon. Although humans are no longer apparent in his later works, it is only because they have not yet arrived or have already departed. In his landscapes with their completely minimalist style in which fruits represent emanations of the spirit, the longing of the artist to provide a cautious affirmation of life is palpable.

A book on the life and work of Hannes Schwarz is available in the Museum shop:

Hannes Schwarz, Innenreise. Das künstlerische Werk von Hannes Schwarz im Benediktinerstift Admont. Eds.: Abbot Bruno Hubl and Michael Braunsteiner, Admont 2002.

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