The Vienna School of Fantastic Realism is a group of artists founded in Vienna in 1946. It includes Ernst Fuchs, Arik Brauer, Rudolf Hausner, Wolfgang Hutter, Anton Lehmden and Fritz Janschka, all students of Professor Albert Paris Gütersloh at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. It was Albert Paris von Gütersloh’s emphasis on the techniques of the Old Masters that gave the Fantastic Realist painters a grounding in realism, expressed with a clarity and detail some have compared to early Flemish painting. This combined with religious and esoteric symbolism. The “Vienna School of Fantastic Realism” as a term, was coined by Joahnn Muschik for a trend in Austrian art following on from Surrealism.
A breakthrough came in the 1960s when the three artists achieved international success as representatives of Austrian post-war painting. Arik Brauer and Ernst Fuchs are two of the central figures in the art movement known as the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism. It developed out of the general perception of Surrealism in the early post-war years and its main representatives were Ernst Fuchs, Arik Brauer, Wolfgang Hutter, Anton Lehmden and Rudolf Hausner. As a figurative painting style, the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism used the techniques of the Old Masters and its content was diametrically opposed to avant-garde art, which was abstract and abstracting. It attained a certain significance alongside other movements and forms of expression in Austrian post-war art and was particularly popular between 1955 and 1970. Unlike other movements, it did not consist of a group of artists with a similar programme, but in spite of the highly individual characters, methods of working and themes, the extreme perfection of the painting technique is a common feature of all of the artists.
The Vienna School of Fantastic Realism was an art movement founded in post-war Austria by a group of young, mostly Austrian artists. These artists attended the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts together, and their teacher and mentor was Albert Paris Gütersloh, a dazzling, larger-than-life personality (1887-1973). Born in Vienna, Gütersloh, whose real name was Albert Conrad Kiehtreiber, studied with the painter Gustav Klimt. When he started his teaching career in 1930, he had already acquired an extraordinary amount of varied experience: he had been a journalist, a writer, an editor, an actor and a film director. Among his friends were some of the most outstanding writers of the early 20th century, including Heimito v. Doderer, Hugo v. Hofmannsthal, Robert Musil and Hermann Bahr.
From 1938 until the end of the Second World War he was banned from his teaching duties by the Nazis. In 1945, Gütersloh became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts. Two years later, he became the first president of the newly-founded Arts Club which later gave rise to the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism. Considered one of the most progressive platforms for young artists, the Arts Club’s mission was to fight for the autonomy of art. A number of exhibitions were organized by the Arts Club at the famous Vienna Secession, a permanent gallery founded by an art movement called Secession, or the Zedlitzgasse, where the Vienna Art Center was located.
Techniques and Sources
Gütersloh emphasized the techniques of the Old Masters which gave his students a grounding in realism, thus exposing them to the clarity and detail of early German and Flemish painting. Fantastic Realism combines religious and esoteric symbolism with elements of psychoanalysis. It is rooted in the Jugendstil and New Objectivity, an Expressionist art movement founded in Germany in the aftermath of World War I. Although Fantastic Realism was initially overshadowed by Abstract Art, it soon became accepted as a valid manifestation of modern independent Austrian art. Since it had initially associated itself with Surrealism, the Vienna School faced bitter denunciation by Surrealists and Surrealist groups. The differences, however, between Fantastic Realism and Surrealism were clearly evident. Orthodox Surrealists such as André Breton demanded that painting not be subject to any control by reason, whereas most of the Fantastic Realists created artificial spaces of fantasy which they then interpreted with their intellect.