Maria Lassnig’s letters to Hans Ulrich Obrist

Maria Lassnig’s letters to Hans Ulrich Obrist

She was the most important painter in Austria. In recent years he has repeatedly been voted the most influential person in the international art world. The Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and the Carinthian painter Maria Lassnig had a close friendship. Obrist not only curated a number of exhibitions that significantly promoted Lassnig’s world fame, since 1993 the two also had a lively correspondence. The Maria Lassnig Foundation has now published the letters in an elaborately designed picture book.

“Dear Hans Ulrich, you can see from the handwriting that I am a ruin of whom no one knows what can become of it.” Lines that 90-year-old Maria Lassnig addressed to the Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist in 2009. These are words of resignation that stand in stark contrast to the vital and headstrong work that the Carinthian painter created into old age. But the big recognition came late.

“She was very linguistic. She had a strong lyrical side.” Peter Pakesch

Late pioneer

In 2013, shortly before her death, Lassnig was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Art Biennale. But it is already too weak to accept the price personally.

As a pioneer of female self-determination, Lassnig had the feeling of being overlooked throughout her life. Self-doubt that torments the artist also runs through the correspondence with the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, who is one of the greats of his profession. Despite self-doubt, she was also convinced of herself and knew exactly what she was doing artistically. This mixture can be found in many artists.


Facsimiles, photographs, works

“She never looked for closeness to groups of people and groups. But she kept in close contact with individuals. The letters that she wrote to Hans Ulrich Obrist also show that,” said Peter Pakesch, Chairman of the Maria Lassnig Foundation. Together with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Pakesch published the volume “Maria Lassnig – Letters to Hans Ulrich Obrist”. It not only combines facsimiles of handwritten letters and postcards, but also photographs and illustrations of central works.

Handwriting and drawing flow together

“The artist also provided many letters with drawings. The drawing element also flows very strongly into other correspondence. Handwriting and drawing flow into one another,” says Peter Pakesch. “She was very linguistic. She had a strong lyrical side. This mixture makes the letters special.”

Maria Lassnig has been writing to the world-famous curator for more than 20 years, sharing her thoughts on painting with him, polemicizing against the popular medium of photography and getting lost in considerations of everyday life that takes place between her Viennese studio and the country estate in Carinthia’s Metnitz Valley. An exchange that looks deeply and falls silent a few months before Maria Lassnig’s death. In January 2014 Lassnig addressed her last words to the esteemed friend and wrote with barely legible handwriting:

Every day is the last ………………
Every night weighs heavily
All around the world


“Maria Lassnig – Letters to Hans Ulrich Obrist”, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Peter Pakesch & Hans Werner Poschauko for the Maria Lassnig Foundation, Cologne 2020
Maria Lassnig Foundation




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