During his early years, Rainer was influenced by Surrealism. In 1950, he founded the Hundsgruppe (dog group) together with Ernst Fuchs, Arik Brauer, and Josef Mikl. After 1954, Rainer's style evolved towards Destruction of Forms, with blackenings, overpaintings, and maskings of illustrations and photographs dominating his later work. He was close to the Vienna Actionism, featuring body art and painting under the influence of drugs. He painted extensively on the subject of Hiroshima such as it relates to the nuclear bombing of the Japanese city and the inherent political and physical fallout.
In 1978, he received the Grand Austrian State Prize. In the same year, and in 1980, he became the Austrian representative at the Venice Biennale. From 1981 to 1995, Rainer held a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna - the same place where he aborted his own studies after three days, unsatisfied.
- Russell, John (19 May 1989). "Review/Art; Arnulf Rainer: Backward to Respectability". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- Stiles, Kristine; Selz, Peter Howard (1996), Theories and documents of contemporary art: a sourcebook of artists' writings (6 ed.), University of California Press, p. 247, ISBN 978-0-520-20251-1
- Programmheft Wirsindwoanders, 2007, Seite 19
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