ERNST FUCHS - AN AMAZING LIFE
Ernst Fuchs was born in 1930 in the 16th district of Vienna – Ottakring. He was the only child of Leopoldine and Maximilian Fuchs. His father, who was of Jewish ancestry, had to flee the Nazis in 1941 and departed to Shanghai. At the age of 12, Ernst Fuchs avowed himself to Roman Catholicism by being baptized at the ‘Stephansdom’, the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Because of his race, Fuchs was denied access to regular schools and he had to be homeschooled. Little Ernst’s artistic talent was undeniable, so his teacher decided to include extracurricular subjects like painting and sculpture in his education.
In 1945, Ernst Fuchs signed up to study painting at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Fuchs was in the class of the legendary Professor Albert Paris von Gütersloh who immediately recognized Fuchs’ talent and supported him with all means. Studying at the academy, Ernst Fuchs’ idols were no lesser than Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst. It was also in Professor Gütersloh’s classroom that he met his future colleagues Arik Brauer, Rudolf Hausner, Wolfgang Hutter and Anton Lehmden. They later founded the „Vienna School of Fantastic Realism“. The painting style of the Renaissance and the Danube School, an amalgam of late Gothic and Renaissance styles, was to be defined for anew. Having lived through and survived the horrors of World War II, these young artists sought for a new reasoning and meaning of life which triggered a strong interest in ancient alchemy and religion; Christian and Jewish mysticism but also deep psychology.
Ernst Fuchs first coined his name in postwar Austria with his expressionist charcoal drawing cycles and gouaches; „Stadt-Zyklus“ (1945) and the „Bikini-Atoll-Zyklus“ (1947) being some of them. With these works, he also took part at the first postwar biennale in Venice. In 1947, Fuchs traveled to Turin where he met Felipe Casorati and Giorgio de Chirico, some of the most important painters of the „Pittura Metaphisica“. Despite his bitter poorness and difficult private conditions, he followed his friend Friedensreich Hundertwasser to the ‚Mekka of Art’ in 1949 – Paris. His first wife Trude remained at home in Vienna to look after Elias and Daniel Friedemann, Ernst Fuchs’ first born sons.
In Paris, Fuchs made use of his knowledge of the old masterly techniques. Because he couldn’t afford an apartment or studio, Fuchs would ‚live’ in the Parisian cafes. He would sit at Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots and paint his miniatures like the old masters once did in their lush studios. For years, Ernst Fuchs’s atelier or studio consisted of a cardboard portfolio he would carry around everywhere he’d go. Fuchs’ playground was the pitoresque quarter of St. Germain de Prés. This is also were he first caught the attention of Jean Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau and especially Salvadore Dali. They all came to see the young Austrian ‚wunderkind’ at work.
In 1953, Ernst Fuchs followed his second wife Geri Krongold to New York and Los Angeles. It was here, that he met Peggy Guggenheim, the grande dame des arts, and jazz legends like Dave Brubeck and Charlie Parker. Soon, Fuchs became the ‚guru’ of the young art scene on the Westcoast. He inspired such movements as airbrush and fantasy painting. 1956, however, Fuchs felt the need to go back to his roots and embarked to Israel. He was accepted to the catholic ‚Dormitio Abbey’ and stayed for a year to work on his „Last Supper“ which was then his largest painting.
1961, Fuchs was married for the third time in Vienna. With new paintings, that were infused by eroticism and myth, he achieved his artistic breakthrough. Grand erotic bronzes like „Hypnosia“ and „Esther“ coined his reputation. Together with his wife Eva-Christina, Fuchs became a style icon of the Sixties. In these fruitful years, Ernst Fuchs designed architecture, furniture, tapestries and jewelry. His cap and golden Rolls Royce became his trademarks. Fuchs and his fellow founders of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism were celebrated with exhibitions all over the world; Japan, Los Angeles, New York and Paris were only a few of their destinations. They were the big stars of the international art fairs,
In 1972, Ernst Fuchs acquired a former ‘Jugendstil Jewel’ that had been abandoned for many years; a palace built by the legendary architect Otto Wagner in Wien Hütteldorf, the 14th district of Vienna. After about two years of restoration work, Fuchs transformed the house into his private studio. He infused the magnificience of Otto Wagner’s architectural décor with his self designed interiors consisting of tapestries, furniture, sculptures, chandeliers and of course paintings. Whilst the house was still in progress, Fuchs continued to be prolific. He traveled across Europe to work on multiple projects at the same time; monumental oil paintings in Vienna, set designs for the Hamburg and Munich opera houses, sculptures produced in Italy and much more. Even during his travels Fuchs was creative; pastels and water color paintings were often created on a plane or out of a hotel room. A genius will create in all circumstances. “Feuerfuchs” and “Planeta Caelestis”, two extraordinary catalogue raisonn?, give more insight into these lush creative phases of Ernst Fuchs with his colorful imagery of the Seventies and Eighties.
In 1988, the centenary of the Otto Wagner-Villa, the house was reborn as the “Ernst Fuchs Museum”. This was celebrated with a large retrospective of the artist with works dating back as early as 1945. Around that time, Ernst Fuchs moved to the South of France and started working on a series of very large paintings like “Dionysos”, as well as designs for various architecture projects. The fountain house “Nymphaeum Omega“ would become his exemplary work of architecture. It is located in the park surrounding the museum. The Nymphaeum’s core contains a large mosaic window depicting the Madonna and her holy child which is surrounded by the twelve golden angels of the apocalypse. The front of the house consists of a large fountain bed with a sculpture of Moses in its center.
In 1989, Ernst Fuchs started working on what he would later call his “Lebenswerk”; the Apocalyptic Chapel at the St. Egid church in Klagenfurt, Carinthia. It took the master over twenty years to complete this spectacular chapel. The walls, ceilings and the entire inside of the chapel, which makes up several hundred cubic feet, is covered with the artist’s old masterly paintings. The chapel features many chapters of the Bible’s apocalypse and has ever since its completion become one of the highlights of Carinthia’s capital. Besides the chapel, Ernst Fuchs designed various architectural projects in Austria, like the newly reconstructed St. Jacob’s church in Thal near Graz, the fountain complex in Bärnbach and the Zodiac Hotel in St. Veit and der Glan, Carinthia.
All his life, Ernst Fuchs was an extremely prolific writer. Besides his daily personal and very lenghty diary entries, he published several books. The poetry book „Von Jahwe“ also features precious litographs. Fuchs’ writings about architecture can be found in „Architectura Caelestis“. The artist’s more erotic prose and essayistic lines are in his novel „Aura“ and countless exhibition catalogues. Ernst Fuchs has produced several records that feature his own lyrics and vocals, for instance „Via Dolorosa“ and „Mystische Gesaenge“.
Ernst Fuchs had several large international museum shows in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. In 1993, Fuchs became the first western artist to ever receive a retrospective show at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. In 2001, the show traveled to the Tretyakov State Gallery in Moscow, and to the Palais Harrach which belongs to the Museum of Art History in Vienna.
Ernst fuchs passed away November 9th 2015 looking back onto an intensely lived and truly fantastic life.