“I don’t think that art, if it’s isolated and specialized, can really create culture. It needs a cult.” – Ernst Fuchs
Ernst Fuchs is a man of many talents; he’s taken turns as a painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, architect, stage designer, composer, poet and singer. Born in 1930 and still working today in Vienna, Fuchs is a strong proponent of fantastic and often disturbing art that’s all over the map, thematically and stylistically.
Left: David and Bathshebah. Right: Ernst Fuchs.
Some of Fuchs’ paintings make him look like a deeply religious man, others make it seem like he’s a total heathen. There are the hyper-detailed, religious-themed, Durer-inspired etchings and brush drawings: my favorite of these is Satan’s Heaven, created in 1954, along with Christ Before Pilate and Ahasverus Repudiates Vasthi. Not since Bosch has religion looked so satisfyingly demonic! Parallel to the his tormenting depictions of the Bible, there are many mythological themes: his Procreation of the Unicorn/Temptation of the Unicorn/Triumph of the Unicorn series is not to be missed; unicorn chaser it’s not!
The Christian and Judaic themes in Fuchs’ work come from a very deep place. His father, Maximilian, was the son of an Orthodox Jewish family and had turned down a career as a Rabbi, leaving his theological studies uncompleted. His mother, Leopoldine, was Christian. When the Nazis occupied Austria in 1938, his father emigrated to Shanghai and Nazi legislation made it illegal for Leopoldine to raise her son alone. Fuchs was deported to a camp for mixed-race children. When this happened, his mother agreed to a formal divorce, which saved Ernst Fuchs from the extermination camp. He was baptised in 1942, an event that would have huge impact on his life and work.
Christ Before Pilate
One of the most interesting aspects of Fuchs’ work, to me, is the range of his feminine portrayal. He’s captured female body horror in his painting A Woman’s Reflection in a Row of Houses so well it makes my stomach turn, yet he can turn around a paint set of clean, pretty Mucha-like images, followed by a sophisticated fetishistic sculpture called Sphinx III that looks like a Michael Manning drawing come to life.
Like Vrubel and Beksi?ski, Fuchs is not that well-known in America. According to friends, this fact doesn’t bother him much; he’s happy to just continue his work and stay productive. However, he is still revered in much of the art world, and has influenced many well-known artists such as H.R. Giger and Mark Ryden. Most recently, he contributed artwork and a Foreword to the book Metamorphosis, which showcases the work of 50 fantastic/surreal artists.
The Psalm 69