Christmas angel for Monsignore
Christmas angel for Monsignore

Maria Lassnig


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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Christmas angel for Monsignore

This Christmas angel, which was dedicated to Monsignore Otto Mauer by Maria Lassnig, is strongly connected to her “body awareness paintings“, in which she explores the experience of her body.

“Christmas angel for Monsignore”—the Austrian artist has put down the title with pencil in the lower right corner of the sheet. The abstracted “Christmas angel” is anything but a typical representative of its kind from the point of view of art history: the angel’s legs are stretched wide out and bent, two horn-like forms protrude from the head turned sideways, and the wings can only be identified as such at a closer look. Since the background is completely undefined, the diagonally positioned angel seems to float above the white sheet. The line is a key element here like in many other works of the artist: the angel is reduced to its outlines, is not developed in its full details; only the main features are given. The ink strokes testify to the artist’s self-confidence; only the suggested waist and the differentiation of the legs strike us as less powerful and more hesitantly rendered.

Maria Lassnig is considered one of the co-founders of the Informal movement in Austria and was the first female professor at an art academy in the German-speaking world. She made a name for herself with her self-portraits, among other things: often with closed eyes, she tried to visualize her “body sensations” on canvas or paper in her “body awareness paintings.” This approach resulted in countless variations representing a mostly nude female against a monochrome background. The artist was not concerned with a truthful depiction of her body.

“Monsignore” refers to Otto Mauer to whom Lassnig gave this drawing as a gift. A native Carinthian, the artist lived and worked in New York in 1970 and probably sent this drawing to her old friend as a Christmas greeting. The two humps on the angel’s head and the exaggeratingly formal way of addressing Otto Mauer as “Monsignore” establish an ironical undertone typical of Lassnig.