February 20, 2009

Hundertwasser’s Paradise on Earth

Hundertwasser was an amazing artist; an amazing man. And deserves to by more famous than he is. With his vision of a better life he improved little pockets around the globe. He could have changed the world. His whimsy makes me love him.

Initially introduced to him through books and postcards, I was immediately interested Hundertwasser’s insanely bright colours and the touch of real gold or silver in almost all of the plates. Years later when I was researching a trip to Vienna I was reminded that he had designed an unorthodox apartment building in Vienna called Hundertwasserhaus. I decided that the three of us would visit Hundertwasserhaus and primarily a Hundertwasser Museum called KunstHausWien (Art House Vienna).

When we arrived at the KunstHausWien we found ourselves in one of the most magical man-made places on earth. What a feast for the senses! Everything was a multi-coloured mosaic. After entering through plump ceramic columns we had to pass through the outdoor café which at that time was artfully decorated with hundreds of pumpkins.

The building itself was originally the studio of the Thonet Brothers (of bentwood fame). Hundertwasser converted the exterior into patchwork of black and white tile with hints of pure blue red, yellow and silver. Small trees were growing out of the windows on this jigsaw puzzle of a building and grass was growing on the roofs. The ground, both indoor and out, was undulating, as Hundertwasser detested even floors stating "an uneven floor is a melody to the feet"

Inside is a stunning tribute to Hundertwasser who died in 2000. His paintings, graphic art and architectural models are on display. Although Hundertwasser first gained notoriety for his boldly-coloured paintings, he is more widely renowned today for his revolutionary architectural designs, which incorporate natural features of the landscape and irregular forms.

Hundertwasser was an early advocate of environmentalism and put his creative energy into developing an architecture that worked in harmony with nature. His architecture borrows from the Eastern European onion domes (think of St. Basils in Red Square), Gaudi and in some cases Jugendstil.

His work has been used for flags, stamps, coins, posters, schools, churches, a public toilet in his adopted home of New Zealand, plus apartment buildings, spas and daycares. One of his buildings houses an incinerator outside Vienna. Another is a Ronald McDonald play ground.

In his painting and graphic art spirals are a primary shape. To me it seems as if he was heavily influenced by Klimt, both in the use of spirals and flowing lines, but also the use of gold and silver in his art. Hundertwasser used bright colours, organic forms, and rejected straight lines. In life he often wore a brightly coloured patchwork cap and miss-matched socks. His sail boat, called the Regentag (Rainy Day), had striped sails.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was born in Vienna in 1928 as Friedrich Stowasser. His adopted surname is based on the translation of Sto (Slavic for "one hundred") into German (hundert). The word Friedensreich can mean "Peace-realm" or "Peace-rich" (maybe in this sense "peace-ful"). So therefore Friedensreich Hundertwasser means "Peaceful Hundred-Water".

As a child Hundertwasser attended a Montessori school which influenced both his fondness for vibrant colors and respect of nature. He collected pebbles and pressed flowers. Ecology was a touchstone for him and since his early childhood he displayed a sensitivity to his surroundings. His immense respect for nature very soon aroused in him the desire to protect it against the attacks made on it by man and industry.

In 1972 he published the manifesto "Your window right — your tree duty" in which he offered that the planting of trees in urban environments should become obligatory. In it he stated "If man walks in nature's midst, then he is nature's guest and must learn to behave as a well-brought-up guest."

Around the corner from KunstHausWien is Hundertwasserhaus, a Viennese apartment block, featuring undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with branches extending from the windows. He took no payment for the design of Hundertwasserhaus, declaring that it was worth it, to "prevent something ugly from going up in its place".

Anyway a picture is worth a “Hundert” words. I leave you with some images of Hundertwasser’s work along with some quotes.

Top photo above is property of Hazel Smith

Other pictures above have been taken from www.hundertwasser.at and www1.kunsthauswien.com. or wikipedia commons


John-Michael said...

He gives my senses permission to relax and be in comfortable natural-ness. I am allowed to breathe and not know the structured demands of conformity to a confining convention. How peacefully delicious to emotionally meander from one inviting stimulus to another without requirement to "move along."

I gently thank you for your generous offering of this mystically magic visitation into what is organically natural and right.

Namaste ...

artemis said...

He didn't die in 1990, he died in 2000.

The Clever Pup said...

Artemis, Thank you for reading this article. You're right of course, and I changed the text to reflect this.