Wolfgang Hollegha


Dom Museum Wien


Modern and Contemporary art

On view

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Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Abstract composition in brilliant colors

This early work by Wolfgang Hollgeha, one of the most influential Austrian painters after World War II, provides a glimpse into his further artistic path.

The watercolor is made up of several colored areas applied with a brush: a red rectangle at the top and a dark blue structure above a yellow shape in the center of the picture. From there, two blue strokes extend into the lower third of the picture. The individual brush strokes emphasize the vertical character of the sheet; the longish blue blotch presents itself as an exception. It is an abstract picture challenging the eye to instinctively look for representational elements, though: the yellow area might be read as a receptacle on two blue legs, for example. The brown and green parts to its left evoke a natural backdrop. The title “Composition,” however, already suggests that the artist has not depicted anything here but given the stage to colors. The washed look of the watercolor lends the subject a certain lightness and floating character.

Wolfgang Hollegha ranks among the pioneers of Austrian Art Informel. The abstract movement of Art Informel originated in Paris and was aimed at freeing postwar painting from its task to render things true to nature. Like his artist friends Markus Prachensky, Josef Mikl, Arnulf Rainer, or Maria Lassnig, Hollegha came to be interested in the essence, the core of things rather than in their appearance. His language as a painter may be said to be mainly characterized by a thin application of paint. He often uses large-format canvases and pours paint on it which he then gives form to with his brush. He draws his inspiration from nature. Hollegha was a co-founding member of the group “Gallery St. Stephan” around Otto Mauer, which exercised a decisive influence on the Austrian postwar art scene. When the native Carinthian also became known in the United States only a little later, he chose to remain in Austria, where he has lived in an old farmhouse in Styria since 1962. He held a professorship for painting at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna until 1997.