Sabine Plakolm-Forsthuber


The thematic spectrum of Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher's pictures is easy to survey. She painted portraits, especially women, isolated group pictures, like female nudes, a few still lifes. Only in later years were landscapes and cityscapes added to these. The place where her pictures were taken is always the same. It is the studio in her apartment in Mariahilf, Vienna, Sandwirtgasse 1. A retreat in which she lived for art, a private place away from family obligations. In it she spent, as she once remarked, "the best hours of my life, because they belonged completely to me and my artistic work [...] without any special control."[1] Her studio was, in the spirit of Virginia Woolf, "a room of one's own", a female place of artistic and intellectual production. Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher's pictures are characterized by a recognizable basic tone throughout all phases, even a constant mood. They are not bold or loud, but reserved, calm, quiet and serious, they do not impose themselves. In this they seem to have particularly corresponded to the self-image of the painter. Her life was not characterized by lightness and light-heartedness, but it was characterized by consistency, straightforwardness and a sense of responsibility.



As a young woman, Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher succeeded in persuading her parents to pursue her dream of becoming a painter. At the turn of the century, this testified to some emancipatory self-confidence and determination. In 1904, at the height of the Secession and Art Nouveau, the 18-year-old entered the art school for women and girls founded in 1897, where she attended the class of the renowned painter and graphic artist Ludwig Michalek, who from 1898 to 1909 taught the main course for " Head and Nude” and other courses for “Day and Half-Nude” as well as “Nature studies in preparation for arts and crafts purposes”. Michalek, an academically trained artist, is likely to have taught his students a solid craft technique and the basics of nude study. At school, Fieglhuber-Gutscher came into contact with like-minded people and joined the "Radierclub Wiener Künstlerinnen" founded in 1903, mostly graduates of the Michalek class.[2] The etching club edited a portfolio each year with twelve original etchings. In 1911 she contributed "generously treated, strangely impressive pictures of animals (black vultures, camels, horse buffalo)",[3] for later portfolios, among other things, the etchings "Alter Hof" or "Baumgruppe".


Even before Michalek had left the art school for a professorship at the Graphic Teaching and Research Institute, Fieglhuber-Gutscher entered the class of Rudolf Jettmar in 1908 and that of Max Kurzweil in 1909. From then on, oil painting must have gained the upper hand with her. A few early portraits testify to the effort to capture the other person as faithfully as possible, as the "Lady in a White Blouse" shows. However, in the portraits of the early 1920s, the strict image organization, which is rooted in Art Nouveau, still comes into play. They are characterized by light colors and a certain stylization ("Portrait of a Boy", 1924 and "Portrait of a Lady", 1924). In 1912 she provisionally completed her eight-year apprenticeship.


The First World War also meant a biographical turning point for the artist. Before the start of the war she had married her cousin Eduard Gutscher, and their two children were born in 1915 and 1917 respectively; painting was out of the question for the time being. After the return of her husband, who had been traumatized by the war and had little understanding for her work, her studio at home became a place of refuge. Private lessons with Egge Sturm-Skrla, an expert in the field of fresco painting, and with Robin Christian Andersen may also have taken place in the post-war period. The teachers came from the circle of young avant-garde groups. Andersen was a member of the Neukunstgruppe or the Sonderbund, to which Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Anton Kolig and Anton Faistauer belonged, Egge Sturm-Skrla in the New Association founded in 1919, which soon became part of the Hagenbund. Both had close contacts with Anton Faistauer. Sturm Skrla assisted him in the fresco decoration of the foyer of the Salzburg Festspielhaus in 1926, and Anderson was related by marriage to him. Fieglhuber-Gutscher probably acquired the free brushwork, the differentiated use of color and the impasto, layered application of paint from the two private tutors. It is not surprising that from then on many portraits showed a certain stylistic similarity to those of Faistauer; Andersen also took many suggestions from his brother-in-law.


An important painter of the interwar period

In the 1930s, Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher's work reached its first peak. In the 1950s her oeuvre received a further, contemporary boost of renewal before it became an astonishing late work in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to the portraits of people from the family environment or acquaintances, which are often characterized by tonal colors, she devoted herself to group portraits and female nudes. Her portraits are mostly tied to the space in her studio. The women sit at the window, on the balcony or group themselves around a table, look in the mirror or are engrossed in reading, they always remain calm, pondering, lost in thought or nodded off. Sometimes they come in the door or wait at the doorstep; they never really leave the room; Her figures are extremely rarely found in an undefined outdoor space (“Three girls greeting each other”). The public, the social space is not Fieglhuber-Gutscher's topic. It almost seems as if undisturbed art production is only possible in the studio. She probably moved only a little in artistic circles. Contacts with Josef Dobrowsky, Franz Luby and Lois Pregartbauer as well as with the painter Anna Jäger and the sculptor Elisabeth Turolt are documented. Even if she was represented in the exhibitions of the Association of Female Artists, the Secession, the Hagenbund or in the Künstlerhaus, she hardly took part in social life.

She “works far away from social life, from bohemian life,” reports an art critic who admires her.[4] The colors of her portraits from the 1930s are extremely appealing. She models her figures with a strong brushstroke, superimposes layers of paint, applies them almost like a spatula and sets them apart from the surrounding space with dark contours. She structures her numerous floral still lifes in a similar way. Else Hofmann, the respected art critic and editor-in-chief of the art journal Österreichische Kunst, called her a “powerful, real painterly talent” on the occasion of a collective in the renowned Viennese Galerie Würthle in 1935 and fantasized in rich chords within this colorful world of its own. The designation of the pictures according to their tonal values, "girl in green", "nude in pink" etc., does not seem pretentious to us.[5]

Her nude portraits are a special feature: she recognizes “artistic perfection” in the “true reproduction of the human body”.[6] For reasons of propriety, her nude models, which are all female and convincingly modeled, lie or stand, forming groups of two or three; Fieglhuber-Gutscher is interested in the relationship between the women, their physicality and their placement in space, but rarely their embedding in a plot or in an allegorical theme, as is known from the nudes of Franziska Zach, who died young. The erotic atmosphere that characterizes Helene Funke's nudes is also completely absent. Unlike Paula Modersohn-Becker or Greta Freist, she never depicted herself as a nude, although a number of self-portraits have survived. In these, however, she not only visualizes herself as a painter, but also as a woman in different phases of life.


War years and exhibition ban

At the end of the 1930s and beginning of the 1940s her style of painting became freer, looser, one could also say more expressionistic, the tonal colors gave way to a more colorful coloring ("Portrait of two women", 1932, "Martha and Maria I"). In view of the political changes that were looming and the art dictates that came into force after Austria's annexation to Nazi Germany, this was somewhat risky. Fieglhuber-Gutscher, who was aloof from National Socialism, applied for admission to the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts on July 11, 1938. Although Leopold Blauensteiner, the Viennese provincial director of the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts, only gave her the grade "+C" on the three-part evaluation scale (A - C) on February 8, 1939 and with the comment "talented, but on the wrong track".[7] was accepted into this forced association of fine arts under the number M 25311. Membership was the essential prerequisite for being able to exhibit and sell. Fieglhuber-Gutscher, who had already attracted attention in June 1942 with "bolder pictures"[8] at the exhibition of the Association of Female Artists of the Reichsgaue der Ostmark, submitted four oil paintings on May 4,[9] 1943 for the upcoming spring exhibition "Das Wiener cityscape" in the Künstlerhaus, which, however, were not included in the exhibition. At that time, at the latest, she must have aroused the displeasure of cultural functionaries with her expressive painting style. This also follows from the fact that a collective exhibition planned by her for 1943 was not approved by the state leadership of the Reichskammer (Reich Chamber). In a telegram written on September 25, 1943, Leopold Blauensteiner sent his negative statement to the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts in Berlin, based on which the following decree was issued to the painter: An “exhibition of works by Marianne Figlhuber (sic!) will […] not allowed by me as it does not conform to the guide's cultural guidelines. I refrain from a personal inspection".[10] This rejection encouraged her to embark on a kind of inner emigration. She then retired to her second home in Kasten in Lower Austria. Fieglhuber-Gutscher did not return to Blauensteiner's post-war exhibition ban, nor did she press for compensation for the injustice she had suffered. In a way, this had a harsh continuation over the next few years. Between 1957 and 1968 she sent an annual application to the Künstlerhaus asking for membership or for a collective of her work (1962). All requests were denied. Her patience, one could say her capacity for suffering, in this matter was remarkable. After a few women were accepted as members around 1961, she now reckoned with better chances: "I was told that women can now also become members of the Künstlerhaus, so I would like to apply for membership in your esteemed society".[11] The comment on the application was succinct that the exhibition commission "after viewing your works submitted for the purpose of admission was not in a position to approve your application".[12] She was only given the opportunity to submit works as a guest.


Expressive painting after 1945

In the meantime, the discourse in Austrian art was completely determined by the polarization between abstract and representational painting. In the 1950s and 1960s, for example, the representatives of Fantastic Realism, New Realities and Pop Art were subsumed under representational. Against this background, Fieglhuber Gutscher's paintings must have appeared as if they were from a distant time. Her pictures, characterized by glowing, expressive colors in the post-war period, were not modern or advanced, but they were of a high painterly quality. To a certain extent, her work remained discreet or unknown, whereas Kokoschka's expressive painting style, for example, was understood and recognized both as an artistic and as a political statement. As an artist of stature, he was able to aggressively defend his critique of abstraction, which he described as anti-humanist. The reclusive painter did not have a comparable self-image.

Nevertheless, the end of the war in 1945 was a liberating blow for Fieglhuber-Gutscher. The self-portrait “Woman at the Garden Door” (owned by Belvedere) from 1945 seems symptomatic to me: in the large-format painting, in which she turns questioningly to the person opposite, her hand is already reaching for the garden door. Trees appear in the background for the first time. The brushstroke is coarser, yet more transparent and looser at the same time, the bright colors red, blue and yellow are used in contrast. A "way into the open" seems to be in the offing.

After the death of her husband in the mid-1950s, she began to travel extensively, interspersed with regular stays with her daughter, who lives in Graz. The fact that more and more landscape paintings were created was a consequence of this new creative phase, in which colorful coloring completely gained the upper hand. Johann Musk acknowledged this change when he wrote: Fieglhuber-Gutscher were “fascinated by the strong colors. Your world begins to blaze, to glow. The melancholy, gentleness gives way to a fervent attitude.”[13] In addition to the deserted landscape, city and industrial pictures, which are characterized by a free, watercolor-like brushwork, she continued to paint flower still lifes, such as “Zinnia”, 1949 (Belvedere property). In addition, there were figural paintings, some also religious scenes, which may be related to a planned stained glass window for the Cistercian monastery in Rein. Isolated music images showing people singing or making music are immersed in cheerful colors. The level of detail has diminished, she concentrates on the outlines, body modeling and background blend into each other.


The late work

As she got older, the artist increasingly devoted her work to the landscapes of her surroundings in addition to the figurative representations. She does fewer works in oil on canvas and increasingly resorts to gouache paints. This enables her to work more quickly and to vary a theme more quickly. The color gains in intensity again and what is depicted is increasingly dissolved. This is a phenomenon that can also be observed, for example, in the impressive late work created in England by the painter Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, who emigrated from Austria in 1938. One could also say that the act of painting itself becomes dominant. The intensity, or the workload imposed on oneself until the end of one's life, is astounding. In the impressive and hitherto almost unknown oeuvre of this public-shy painter, as Johann Musk sums it up, “a striving for permanence, for the enduring, the eternal can be felt in everything”.[14] It is important to ponder this in order to give the painter her due place in art history.




[1] Otto Hans Joachim, Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, in: Austrian Illustrated Newspaper, March 16, 1930, p. 6.

[2] Members of the Etching Club of Vienna Artists from 1903 to 1914 were: Maria Adler (President), Hertha, Czoernig-Gobanz, Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, Grete Fuchs-Braun, Emma Hrncyrz, Erna Lederer-Mendel, Magda von Lerch, Emma Löwenstamm, Anny Rottauscher , Lilly Steiner, Marie Spitz-Pollack, Rosa Frankfurt, Anna Mik and others.

[3] Leopoldine Kulka, Vienna Artists Etching Club, in: Neues Frauenleben, 1911, No. 12, p. 346.

[4] Otto Hans Joachim, Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, in: Austrian Illustrated Newspaper, March 16, 1930, p. 6.

[5] Else Hofmann (h.h.): The painter Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, in: Österreichische Kunst, H. 6, vol. 6, 1935, p. 25.

[6] Otto Hans Joachim, Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, in: Austrian Illustrated Newspaper, March 16, 1930, p. 6.

[7] Archive of the professional association of Austrian artists, file Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher.

[8] Heinrich Neumayer, Women's Artistic Creations, in: Völkischer Beobachter, June 6, 1942, p. 3.

[9] Künstlerhaus archive, nude Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher. Registration form from May 4, 1943 for the 1942 spring exhibition. She submitted the following four pictures: Portrait of Prof. H., Portrait of Mrs. Dr. M., Woman in Black Dress, Amaryllis.

[10] Archive of the professional association of Austrian artists, file Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher.

[11] Künstlerhaus archive, file Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, letter from Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher to the cooperative dated April 25, 1961.

[12] Künstlerhaus archive, nude Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, letter from Carlos Riefel to Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher dated November 28, 1961.

[13] Johann Musk, The painter Marianne Fieglhuber-Gutscher, in: old and modern art, H. 3, vol. 5, 1960, p. 20.

[14] ibid.


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