Maria Lassnig, Painter of Self From the Inside Out, Dies at 94

by Rachel Baker on May 9, 2014

If you have never heard of her, do yourself a favor and look her up. She’s fascinating in her own right, and she felt she was never given the recognition she deserved.

Maybe in death, she will be a bit more appreciated for the artist she was.

Maria Lassnig, an Austrian painter whose fierce devotion to self-portraiture — in lacerating, darkly funny, often grotesque ways — led her through decades of obscurity to a celebrated late-flowering career, died on Tuesday in Vienna. She was 94.

Her death was announced by Hauser & Wirth, the gallery that represented her for many years along with the Friedrich Petzel Gallery. She is the subject of a survey, through May 25, at MoMA PS1 in Queens, spanning more than 50 years of her painting.

Ms. Lassnig was unusual among late-20th century figurative artists in working not from photography or observation but from what she called “body awareness,” a Surrealist-influenced method of painting only her mental perception of herself and her feelings.

Her raw, fleshy portraits might depict her in fun-house distortion, or wrestling with a lover, or with her face encased in plastic. “Du Oder Ich” (“You or me”) from 2005, presents her naked, hairless and earless, wielding two pistols, one pointed at her head and the other at the viewer, a vision that might suggest her ambivalent feelings about the art public, which for so long denied her the recognition she felt she deserved.

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