Arnulf Rainer

Date/place of birth

December 8, 1929, Baden, Austria

Arnulf Rainer - Feuer-Mund (Fingerfarbfest)
Arnulf Rainer - Feuer-Mund (Fingerfarbfest)

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Arnulf Rainer biography

Arnulf Rainer became world famous for his ‘overpaintings’ and was the founder of Art Informel in Austria.

Arnulf Rainer - Disagreement with art teachers; training as an autodidact

Arnulf Rainer was born on 8 December 1929 in Baden near Vienna. His artistic ambition developed at an early age, leading him to abandon the national-political school in Traiskirchen following a dispute after an art teacher had demanded that he paint from nature. He was first confronted with contemporary art at an exhibition in 1947 held by the British Council in Klagenfurt featuring great names such as Francis Bacon, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer. Arnulf Rainer was elated, but initially submitted to his parent’s wishes and studied structural engineering at the Bundesgewerbeschule in Villach. He graduated in 1949 but registered that same year at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. His studies there only lasted one day however as the combative student decided to transfer to the Academy for Fine Arts following an argument with Rudolf Korunka. He didn’t have much joy there either, lasting this time three days, because his works were labelled ‘degenerate’. Subsequently, Arnulf Rainer continued his education as an autodidact. 

Forerunner of European Informal; the beginning of the ‘overpaintings’

In 1950, together with Arik Brauer, Ernst Fuchs, Wolfgang Hollegha, Anton Lehmden, Josef Mikl and Markus Prachensky, Arnulf Rainer co-founded the artist association Hundsgruppe, although he only exhibited with them once. He travelled to Paris in 1951 with Maria Lassnig, visited the surrealist André Breton, and discovered the work of Jackson Pollock and Jean Paul Riopelle. In the 1950s, the artist often employed religious motifs, mostly in the form of various depictions of crucifixes, the so-called ‘Crucifixions’. He held his first solo exhibition in 1952, now deemed one of the earliest testimonies of European Informel and one year later in 1953 met the Catholic priest Otto Maurer, a great promoter of modern art who presented works by Rainer in his famous ‘Galerie nächst St. Stephan’. That year Rainer began his world-famous ‘overpaintings’, initially painting over his own works, and later those of other artists. In 1959, he came together with his old companions Ernst Fuchs and Friedensreich Hundertwasser to found ‘Pintorarium’ which held until 1968.

Numerous awards; professor at the Art Academy of Vienna

Arnulf Rainer has received prizes and awards for his art which, as in the case of the Art Prize of the City of Vienna, were occasionally revoked as he did not want to bow to the ideas of the awarding bodies. He was the first oversees artist to receive the Aradón Goya Prize in 2006 which was intended to honour his artistic proximity to the work of Francisco de Goya. The professorship he took up at the Venna Academy of Fine Arts in 1981 ended abruptly: when unknown persons broke into his studio and painted over several of his pictures with black paint, he had himself made emeritus professor.

Arnulf Rainer lives and works today primarily in Enzenkirchen where he has converted part of a farmhouse into a studio, and spends the winter mostly on Tenerife. 

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Arnulf Rainer Prices

Arnulf RainerFeuer-Mund (Fingerfarbfest)€118.750
Arnulf RainerOhne Titel€48.790
Arnulf RainerUntitled€47.120
Arnulf RainerOhne Titel€45.220
Arnulf RainerRotes Kreuz (Großes Kreuz III)€32.760
Arnulf RainerÜbermalung€28.560

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