Josef Mikl


Dom Museum Wien


Oil paint
Oil painting
Modern and Contemporary art

On view

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Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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An early abstract

Consisting of brilliant blocks of color, the “bust“ is an example of Josef Mikl's understanding of abstraction, which he always developes out of the human form.

This small-format oil painting merges blue, green and yellow rectangles to a block structure set off against an orange background through its red framing. The form is ambiguous and evokes a standing figure or a cross. Only the title “Bust” triggers new associations that make us look for a head and chest. The picture is a painting by the Viennese artist Josef Mikl. It is monogrammed and dated “M58” in the right bottom corner. Formally, the block structure evokes the Viennese sculptor Fritz Wortruba’s late Cubist works. The use of geometric shapes in conjunction with glaring colors is typical of Mikl’s early work. His pictures are not unrepresentational despite their high degree of abstraction. The painter and graphic artist takes the figurative—mostly the human figure—as his point of departure. Numerous titles such as “Figure,” “Head,” “Nude,” or “Bust” evidence this approach. The artist draws on traditional subjects in the history of art, yet transforms them by means of a modern language: color and form are freed from their mimesis function and occupy center stage.

Participating in numerous exhibitions, Mikl made a name for himself both in Austria and abroad in the 1950s. The artist group “Gallery St. Stephan,” which he founded together with Wolfgang Hollegha, Arnulf Rainer, and Markus Prachensky in 1956, championed a new kind of painting. These artists and the priest Otto Mauer stood for Austria’s avant-garde of that time. Mikl represented Austria at the 34th Biennale di Venezia. The artist is also known for his commissions: he painted numerous church windows (such as those for the Hiroshima World Peace Memorial Cathedral, Japan) and furnished the Große Redoutensaal in Vienna’s Hofburg with large-format wall paintings in the 1990s.