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Helnwein, Gottfried

Gottfried Helnwein Sklavin des Herzens


*1948 Vienna

„Sklavin des Herzens“ („Slave to the Heart“)
lower right: "Helnwein", verso original artist’s label with title and date 1986
acrylic on canvas
78 ¾×59 in

illustrated in: G. Helnwein (ed.): Gottfried Helnwein (exhibition cat. Mittelrhein-Museum, Koblenz/Würthle Gallery, Vienna/Leopold-Hoesch Museum, Düren, 1986-1987), Cologne 1986, n.p.

Abstracted or even completely abstract; expressive, impulsive; a step away from hyperreality towards pure painting – 1986 marks the beginning of a short but particularly impressive phase in the work of the famous Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein. The year before, Helnwein, by then already an internationally successful artist, had left Vienna and retired to Burgbrohl Castle, not far from the Rhine River. The private retreat was also to become an artistic one, leading to a complete reinterpretation of familiar pictorial themes as well as an unexpected realization of new motifs.

The art historian Kurt Eitelbach (director of the Middle Rhine Museum in Koblenz from 1974- 1988) recorded his astonishment when viewing the paintings created in 1986 as follows: ”Recently I visited you at the Castle. I stood in your studio and, in the midst of the ”superrealistic“ images that are so characteristic of you, the portraits captured with photographic fidelity, […], was surprised to see images of abstraction to the point of a complete absence of object focus […]. These canvases – particularly among the garishly colored realistic watercolors – exuded a deep silence, an immense calm.” 1

This extraordinary creative period – to which a special exhibition was dedicated (Koblenz, Vienna, Düren, Oct 18, 1986 – May 3, 1987) –allows for a much more direct access into the emotional world of the master through intuitive brushstrokes and opens up completely new points of view onto Helnwein‘s complex pictorial themes.

Besides ”Slave to the Heart”, we present two more paintings from the special period of 1986: ”Secret of the Amazon“ (cat. no. 38) and ”Self-Portrait“ (cat. no. 36).

1 Kurt Eitelbach, in: G. Helnwein (ed.): Gottfried Helnwein (exhibition cat. Mittelrhein-Museum Koblenz, Gallery Würthle Vienna, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum Düren, Oct. 18, 1986 – May 3, 1987), Cologne 1986.

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