Arnulf Rainer (b. 1929)
Kopf (Head)
signed, titled and dated 'A. Rainer 64/65 Kopf' (upper left); signed and titled 'A. Rainer KOPF' (on the overlap)
oil, wax crayon and oil stick on canvas laid on cardboard.
65.5 x 50.5cm.
Executed in 1964-1965
Galerie Müller, Stuttgart.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1973.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Please note this lot is the property of a consumer. See H1 of the Conditions of Sale.
Brought to you by

Lot Essay

‘I consider artistic creation to be first an inner monologue. A little like the dream continues in deep sleep, the covering of a painting is the continuation of this monologue in silence’ – Arnulf Rainer

The collection features a number of works by Arnulf Rainer: the Austrian artist celebrated for his abstract, appropriative practice. Inspired early on by Surrealism, he played an important role in the evolution of Art Informel in Austria during the early 1950s, and later came to be associated with Viennese Actionism. Spanning more than a decade of his oeuvre, the grouping charts one of his most critical periods: from his early Overpaintings and Blackenings, begun in the 1950s, to the series of Face Farces he created during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Born in Baden in 1929, Rainer originally studied architecture at the vocational school in Villach, where he was exposed to a number of international influences including the work of Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and the Surrealists. Against the backdrop of ‘Fantastic Realism’ which came to dominate the Viennese art scene during this period, Rainer founded the ‘Hundsgruppe’ (‘Dog Pack’): an collective that included Ernst Fuchs, Anton Lehmden and others. In the summer of 1951, he travelled to Paris with Maria Lassnig, where he encountered Art Informel for the first time. Turning increasingly to abstract idioms, he began his series of Overpaintings (Übermalungen), in which he painted over pre-existing artworks, turning them into shimmering monochrome planes. Evoking aspects of the Surrealists’ ‘écriture automatique’, or ‘automatic writing’, Rainer conceived his process as a meditative, near-sacred act, explaining that ‘this progressive participation in the obscuration or immersion of the painting, its gradual return to peace and invisibility … could be compared to the contemplative experience of religious life’ (A. Rainer, quoted at [accessed 24 March 2021]). The Blackenings, in which he effaced visible forms and structures with swathes of black, also sprung from a similar impetus. ‘My ideal is the completely dark picture, full of some overwhelming silence’, he wrote (A. Rainer, quoted at [accessed 24 March 2021]).
During the 1960s and 1970s, Rainer would take this approach in a somewhat different direction in his series of Face Farces, using photographs of himself as the basis for his erasures. Vandalised with vivid strokes of colour, these works became extensions of his own facial expressions, revealing unforeseen psychological depths: ‘I discovered to my surprise a bunch of new, unknown people,’ he wrote, ‘who were lurking within me, but who my muscles alone couldn’t formulate’ (A. Rainer, quoted in O. Breicha (ed.), Arnulf Rainer: Hirndrang, Salzburg 1980, p. 106). The theatrical element of this series seemed to align his work with that of the Viennese Actionists – Hermann Nitsch, Günter Brus, Otto Mühl and Rudolf Schwarzkogler – who came to prominence during this period. Though Rainer refused full allegiance to the group, he shared much of their anti-establishment rhetoric: indeed, between 1959 and 1968 – along with Fuchs and Friedensreich Hundertwasser – he spearheaded the so-called ‘Pintorarium’, conceived as ‘a crematorium for the incineration of the Academy’.

Related Articles

Sorry, we are unable to display this content. Please check your connection.

More from
The Curator's Eye: The Collection of Professor Dr Karin von Maur
Place your bid Condition report

A Christie's specialist may contact you to discuss this lot or to notify you if the condition changes prior to the sale.

I confirm that I have read this Important Notice regarding Condition Reports and agree to its terms. View Condition Report