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Maria Lassnig

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Name: Maria

Surname: Lassnig

Lives & Works:


Date of Birth:

Date of Death: 2014


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

As an artist, Maria Lassnig dedicated her life to exploring the depths of human consciousness through painting. She was a pioneer who helped shape modern art. Throughout her career, Maria developed a unique style of depicting human emotions and sensations.

Lassnig's dedication to exploring and expressing the human experience through painting places her firmly among the most influential artists of the 20th century. Lassnig’s illustrations provide a window into the inner lives of her subjects, capturing feelings of anguish, joy, and tranquillity with visceral power. Though her work was often overlooked during her lifetime, she persevered in pursuing your creative vision. 

Today, Lassig’s paintings are recognized as masterpieces that have inspired generations of artists. Her life and art demonstrate the power of following your creative vision without compromise. Lassnig’s story is an inspiration and a reminder that staying true to yourself is the only path to making a lasting impact.         

Maria Lassnig BIOGRAPHY

Maria Lassnig
Image Credit: MoMA

Early Life and Artistic Development in Austria

Maria Lassnig was born in 1919 in the small village of Kappel am Krappfeld in southern Austria. From an early age, Lassnig showed a keen interest in art. She began drawing as a child and studied in Vienna at the Academy of Fine Arts from 1940 to 1944. 

While there, she was exposed to various styles, including Cubism and Surrealism, which sparked her experimentation with expressive and symbolic modes of representation. After graduating, Lassnig worked in isolation for over a decade in Carinthia. During this time, she developed her artistic style focused on visualizing internal psychological and emotional states. 

A pioneer of Austrian modern art, Lassnig produced a substantial body of work over 70 years that provides insight into the inner lives of women and the human experience in general. Her courageous and, at times, unsettling depictions of the self have established her as a seminal figure in contemporary art, gaining international acclaim late in her life. Lassnig continued working until her death at 94, leaving behind an indelible legacy as one of Austria’s most important 20th-century artists.

What is Maria Lassnig known for?

Maria Lassnig
Image Credit: DOMUS

Lassnig’s prolific work established her as a pioneering feminist artist and visionary. Over her long career, she worked in various mediums, including painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and film.

Lassnig’s unflinching self-portraits and intuitive understanding of the relationship between body and mind created a new visual language for representing internal experiences. Her avant-garde and imaginative paintings have enduringly expanded the possibilities of artistic expression.

Career highlights

Maria Lassnig
Image Credit: Artsy

Pioneering Self-Exploration Through Body Awareness Painting

Lassnig’s groundbreaking “Body Awareness” technique established her as an innovative pioneer in self-exploration through art. Her influential and diverse work has cemented her status as a visionary modern artist.

Developing a New Visual Language

In the 1940s, Lassnig began experimenting with depicting physical sensations and psychological states. She aimed to create a “language of signs” to represent emotions and feelings. Lassnig painted distorted and exaggerated forms to convey tensions within the body and mind. Her early works featured solitary female figures in sparse, abstract spaces.

Growing Recognition

Her striking self-portraits and innovative painting style gained increasing praise from art critics and historians. They described her work as visionary, poetic, and ahead of its time. Museums and collectors took notice, acquiring her pieces for their permanent collections. 

By the 2000s, Lassnig's paintings were shown at: 

  • Venice Biennale, Documenta in Kassel, Germany

  • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

Major solo exhibitions of her art followed in the 1990s at: 

  • Secession in Vienna

  • Kunsthalle Krems

  • Generali Foundation in Vienna

New Prominence

In her later years, Lassnig continued experimenting with new subjects and mediums, including sculpture and film. She pushed the boundaries of contemporary art with her courageous and, at times, unsettling depictions of the human body and psyche. Major retrospectives of Lassnig's life work were held at:


Serpentine Galleries in London


MoMA PS1 in New York City

Through her masterful and innovative self-portraits, Lassnig gave form to human consciousness and sensations in a profoundly personal yet universally resonant way. Her remarkable career is an inspiration and testament to the creative potential of women in art.

Maria Lassnig List of Work

Maria Lassnig
Image Credit: Contemporary Art Daily

Iconic Themes and Styles: The Human Form

Lassnig frequently depicted distorted and abstracted human forms and body parts in her work. She aimed to capture internal psychological and emotional states through depictions of the human condition. Her self-portraits offer a glimpse into her inner life during different periods.

Lassnig employed a variety of styles to represent the human form, including expressionism, surrealism, and abstract art. Her works are striking and thought-provoking, using intense, vibrant colours, distorted proportions, and shapes. The figures in her paintings and drawings are a mix of strange and familiar, meant to evoke the strangeness we can feel within our bodies and sense of self.


Lassnig was a pioneer of feminist self-portraiture. Her self-portraits constitute much of her work and provide insight into her continuous self-reflection and analysis over decades. Her self-portraiture evolved throughout her career, reflecting her changing styles and personal experiences.

Some of her most well-known self-portraits include:


“Self Portrait with Brush Stroke”

These works demonstrate her experimentation with surrealism, expressionism, and abstraction.


“Self Portrait with Death”

Lassnig’s iconic and deeply personal themes of exploring the human form and self-portrait through various styles cemented her as a pioneering artist who redefined Austrian art. Her influential and striking body of work has enduring relevance and power.


Lassnig was a pioneer for women in the male-dominated art world.

  • First female painter to receive the Grand Austrian State Prize in 1988 

  • Awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2019.

Such prestigious accolades were nearly unheard of for female artists when Lassnig began her career in the postwar period.

Maria Lassnig's Enduring Legacy as a Feminist Painter

Maria Lassnig's work has had a profound and enduring influence on feminist art. Known for her visceral and unflinching self-portraits, Lassnig fearlessly explored themes of gender and the body in her art.

Pioneering Feminist Painter 

Through her art, Lassnig gave a voice to women's experiences and perceptions of their bodies that had long been neglected or misrepresented in Western art. Her self-portraits laid bare the psychological and physical realities of a woman's life, confronting issues like objectification, aging, and loss of identity. Lassnig's courageous and, at times, grotesque style was a radical departure from the idealized female nudes of her male contemporaries.

Lasting Impact

Lassnig's influence on contemporary feminist art cannot be denied. Her daring and intensely personal self-portraits opened up new possibilities for women artists to reclaim their bodies and experiences as subjects of art. Lassnig demonstrated that feminist art could address issues of gender and identity in a disturbing, aggressive, and deeply authentic way.

Decades after her death, Lassnig's masterful self-portraits inspire new generations of feminist artists. Her pioneering vision and defiant spirit helped shape the course of feminist art in the 20th and 21st centuries. Through her enduring legacy, Maria Lassnig stands out as one of the most important feminist artists of our time.

When Did Maria Lassnig Die?

Maria Lassnig died at the age of 94 on May 6, 2014.

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