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The Austrian artist Herwig Zens (1943–2019) exerted a strong influence on the Austrian cultural landscape. As a professor at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, he was responsible for the training of many generations of educators. In addition to his teaching activities, Zens created an extensive and internationally recognized artistic oeuvre for which he was awarded numerous prizes.

This exhibition commemorates the eightieth anniversary of the birth of the artist, who died in 2019, and with paintings, drawings, and printed graphics presents an entire cosmos of topics that Zens explored intensively in his decades-long work, among them his “Radiertes Tagebuch”, the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746–1828), death, and the composer Franz Schubert.

The world’s longest printed graphic

Zens broke records with his “Radiertes Tagebuch”, an extraordinary autobiographical testimony that was created over a span of some 40 years. In 2005, the entire print measured an impressive 40 meters long. In the State Gallery of Lower Austria, the 12-meter-long variant from the Lower Austrian State Collections can be seen. For this journal, the gifted etcher created a series of copperplate engravings next to each other on a long strip of paper, the individual days represented by boxes containing drawings, notes, and some that are empty.

Goya, death, and music

Zens not only created an impressive number of reinterpretations of Goya’s works; he published Goya’s letters to the Spanish merchant and local politician Martín Zapater in a German translation as well. The exhibition also illuminates the topics of music and Greek mythology and the motif of death, which Zens explored obsessively in the creation of his sometimes monumental dances of death.

Curator: Nikolaus Kratzer


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