Gottfried Helnwein

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Gottfried Helnwein
Save The World Awards 2009 show04 - Gottfried Helnwein.jpg
Born (1948-10-08) 8 October 1948 (age 68)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality Irish
Education Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Known for painting, photography, installation art
Notable work Ninth November Night (1988), Epiphany I (Adoration of the Magi) (1996), Disasters of War 3 (2007), The Murmur of the Innocents 14 (2010), I Walk Alone (2003), Peinlich (1971)
Movement Hyperrealism, Installation art, Performance art

Gottfried Helnwein (born 8 October 1948) is an Austrian-Irish visual artist. He has worked as a painter, draftsman, photographer, muralist, sculptor, installation and performance artist, using a wide variety of techniques and media.

Helnwein studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Wien). His work is concerned primarily with psychological and sociological anxiety, historical issues and political topics. His subject matter is the human condition. The metaphor for his art is dominated by the image of the child, particularly the wounded child, scarred physically and the child scarred emotionally from within.[1]

Another aspect of his work are his references to taboo and controversial issues from recent history, especially the Nazi rule and the horror of the Holocaust. As a result of this, his work is often considered provocative and controversial.

Helnwein lives and works in Ireland and Los Angeles.


Helnwein was born in Vienna short after World War II. His father Joseph Helnwein worked for the Austrian Post and Telegraphy administration (Österreichische Post- und Telegraphenverwaltung), and his mother Margarethe was a housewife.[2][3]

Helnwein spent his childhood in a strict Roman Catholic upbringing. As a student he organized plays and art exhibitions at the Catholic Marian Society (Marianische Kongregation) of the Jesuit University Church in Vienna.[4]

1965 he enrolled at the "Higher Federal Institution for Graphic Education and Experimentation" in Vienna (Höhere Bundes-Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt, Wien).[5] In the following years he started his first performances for small audiences where he cut his face and hands with razor blades and bandaged himself.[6]

From 1969 to 1973 he studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Wien).[7] He was awarded the Master-class prize (Meisterschulpreis) of the University of Visual Art, Vienna, the Kardinal-König prize and the Theodor-Körner prize.[8][9]

In 1983 Helnwein met Andy Warhol in his factory in New York City, who posed for a series of photo-sessions.[10]

Helnwein was offered a chair by the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg in 1982. When his demand to admit also children to study at the university was rejected, he declined.[11]

In 1985 Rudolf Hausner, recommended Helnwein as his successor as professor of the master-class for painting at the University of Visual Art in Vienna, but Helnwein left Vienna and moved to Germany.[12]

He bought a medieval castle close to Cologne and the Rhine-river. Four years later in 1989 he established a studio in Tribeca New York and thenceforth spent his time between the United States and Germany.[2][13]

Helnwein moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1997 and one year later, he bought Castle Gurteen de la Poer in County Waterford.[14] In 2002 he established a studio in downtown Los Angeles and he lives and works since then in Ireland and Los Angeles.[15] Helnwein has four children with his wife Renate: Cyril, Mercedes, Ali Elvis and Wolfgang Amadeus, who are all artists.[16] In 2004 Helnwein received Irish citizenship.[17][18]

On 3 December 2005, his friend Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese were married in a private, non-denominational ceremony at Helnwein's castle.[19] The wedding was officiated by surrealist film director Alejandro Jodorowsky[20] Gottfried Helnwein was best man [21][22]

In 2013 the Albertina Museum in Vienna organized a retrospective of Helnwein's work. The show was seen by 250.000 visitors and was the most successful exhibition of a contemporary artist in the history of the Albertina.[23][24][25]


Helnwein is part of a tradition going back to the 18th century, to which Messerschmidt's grimacing sculptures belong. One sees, too, the common ground of his works with those of Arnulf Rainer and Hermann Nitsch, two other Viennese, who display their own bodies in the frame of reference of injury, pain, and death. And one sees how this fascination with body language goes back to the expressive gesture in the work of Egon Schiele.[26]

The Child[edit]

State Russian Museum St. Petersburg, Helnwein's "Head of a Child" ("Kindskopf", 1991, oil and acrylic on canvas, 600 x 400 cm), being installed in the retrospective of Gottfried Helnwein, 1997, (Collection of the State Russian Museum St. Petersburg).

Helnwein's early work consists mainly of hyper-realistic watercolors, depicting wounded children, as well as photographs and performances – often with children – in public spaces. The bandaged child became the most important figure next to the artist himself allied with him in his actions. The child as the embodiment of the innocent, defenceless individual at the mercy of brute force.

Art historian Peter Gorsen specified the relation between Helnwein’s work and Viennese Actionism:

“Helnwein must be set apart from Viennese Actionism as he does not reduce the child's body to mere aesthetic material (as in the "material actions" of Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, and Otto Muehl), but instead endows it with a symbolic function in representing defenceless, sacrificed man. The sexualistic concept of the child in (Freud-influenced) Viennese Actionism is countered by the moralist and utopian Helnwein with the child as a sexless salvation figure.”[27]

In 2004, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco organized the first one-person exhibition of Gottfried Helnwein at an American Museum: "The Child, works by Gottfried Helnwein" at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.[28]

Harry S. Parker III, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco stated: "For Helnwein, the child is the symbol of innocence, but also of innocence betrayed. In today's world, the malevolent forces of war, poverty, and sexual exploitation and the numbing, predatory influence of modern media assault the virtue of children. Helnwein's work concerning the child includes paintings, drawings, and photographs, and it ranges from subtle inscrutability to scenes of stark brutality. Of course, brutal scenes – witness The Massacre of the Innocents – have been important and regularly visited motifs in the history of art. What makes Helnwein's art significant is its ability to make us reflect emotionally and intellectually on the very expressive subjects he chooses. Many people feel that museums should be a refuge in which to experience quiet beauty divorced from the coarseness of the world. This notion sells short the purposes of art, the function of museums, and the intellectual curiosity of the public. The Child: Works by Gottfried Helnwein will inspire and enlighten many; it is also sure to upset some. It is not only the right but the responsibility of the museum to present art that deals with important and sometimes controversial topics in our society".[29]

The show was seen by almost 130,000 visitors and the San Francisco Chronicle quoted it the most important exhibition of a contemporary artist in 2004. Steven Winn, Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic, wrote: "Helnwein's large format, photo-realist images of children of various demeanors boldly probed the subconscious. Innocence, sexuality, victimization and haunting self-possession surge and flicker in Helnwein's unnerving work".[30]

Self portraits[edit]

At the same time when Helnwein painted watercolors of injured and abused children, from 1969, around 1970/71 he also began a series of self-portrayals in photographs and performances (actions) in his studio and in the streets of Vienna. Actionistic self-portrayals in the manner of a happening featuring his injured and bandaged body and surgical instruments deforming his face go back to Helnwein's student days. Since then, bandages have become part of the aesthetic "uniform" of his self-portraits.[31]

The artist exposed himself as victim and martyr: bandages around his head and forks and surgical instruments piercing his mouth or cheek. Frequently the distortions of these tormented images make it difficult to recognize Helnwein's face. He appears as a screaming man, mirroring the frightening aspects of life: a twentieth-century Man of Sorrows. His frozen cry, showing the artist in a state of implacable trauma, recalls Edvard Munch 's "Scream" and Francis Bacon 's screaming popes. Some of Helnwein's grimacing faces also recall the grotesque physiognomic distortions by the eighteenth-century Viennese sculptor Franz Xavier Messerschmidt. They could also be seen as part of the Austrian pictorial tradition that resurfaced in the perturbed and distorted expressionist faces painted by Kokoschka and Egon Schiele before World War I, reappearing in the exaggerated mimicry in Arnulf Rainer's "Face Farces."[32]

William S. Burroughs commented on Helnwein's self-portraits in an essay " in 1992: "There is a basic misconception that any given face, at any given time, looks more or less the same, like a statue's face. Actually, the human face is as variable from moment to moment as a screen on which images are reflected, from within and from without. Gottfried Helnwein's paintings and photographs attack this misconception, showing the variety of faces of which any face is capable. And in order to attack the basic misconception, he must underline and exaggerate by distortion, by bandages and metal instruments that force the face into impossible molds. Images of torture and madness abound, as happens from moment to moment in the face seen as a sensitive reflection of extreme perceptions and experience. How can a self-portrait depict statuesque calm in the face of the horrors that surround us all?"[33]

The central importance of the "self-portrait" in Helnwein's work, the mutable art of a doppelganger, is no accident. It becomes the projection surface of world events. "The artist doesn't make history, history makes him" (Auguste Comte). The artist's doppelganger role as victim and perpetrator, martyr and satyr, penitent and accuser, proxy and self-portrayer, moralist and autist, and in many other metamorphoses embodies and stages the antagonistic social forces on a stage of his inner-world consciousness.[34]

In a conversation with Robert A. Sobieszek, curator of the Los Angeles County Museum, Helnwein declared: " The reason why I took up the subject of self-portraits and why I have put myself on stage was to function as a kind of representative for the suffering, abused and oppressed human being. I needed a living body to demonstrate and exemplify the effect of violence inflicted upon a defenseless victim. There is nothing autobiographical or therapeutical about it, and I don’t think it says anything about me personally. Also I was the best possible model for my experiments: endlessly patient and always available."[35]

Comics and trivial art[edit]

Another strong element in his works are comics. Helnwein has sensed the superiority of cartoon life over real life ever since he was a child. Growing up in a dreary, destroyed post-war Vienna, the young boy was surrounded by unsmiling people, haunted by a recent past they could never speak about. What changed his life was the first German-language Donald Duck comic book that his father brought home one day. Opening the book felt like finally arriving in a world where he belonged:
"...a decent world where one could get flattened by steam-rollers and perforated by bullets without serious harm. A world in which the people still looked proper, with yellow beaks or black knobs instead of noses." (Helnwein[36])[37]

In 2000, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art presented Helnwein's painting "Mouse I" (1995, oil and acrylic on canvas, 210 cm x 310 cm) at the exhibition The Darker Side of Playland: Childhood Imagery from the Logan Collection.
Alicia Miller commented on Helnwein's work in Artweek: "In 'The Darker Side of Playland', the endearing cuteness of beloved toys and cartoon characters turns menacing and monstrous. Much of the work has the quality of childhood nightmares. In those dreams, long before any adult understanding of the specific pains and evils that live holds, the familiar and comforting objects and images of a child's world are rent with something untoward. For children, not understanding what really to be afraid of, these dreams portend some pain and disturbance lurking into the landscape. Perhaps nothing in the exhibition exemplifies this better than Gottfried Helnwein's 'Mickey'. His portrait of Disney's favorite mouse occupies an entire wall of the gallery; rendered from an oblique angle, his jaunty, ingenuous visage looks somehow sneaky and suspicious. His broad smile, encasing a row of gleaming teeth, seems more a snarl or leer. This is Mickey as Mr. Hyde, his hidden other self now disturbingly revealed. Helnwein's Mickey is painted in shades of gray, as if pictured on an old black-and-white TV set. We are meant to be transported to the flickering edges of our own childhood memories in a time imaginably more blameless, crime-less and guiltless. But Mickey's terrifying demeanor hints of things to come...".[38]

Although Helnwein's work is rooted in the legacy of German expressionism, he has absorbed elements of American pop culture. In the 1970s, he began to include cartoon characters in his paintings. In several interviews he claimed: "I learned more from Donald Duck than from all the schools that I have ever attended." Commenting on that aspect in Helnwein's work, Julia Pascal wrote in the New Statesman: "His early watercolor Peinlich (Embarrassing)[39] shows a typical little 1950s girl in a pink dress and carrying a comic book. Her innocent appeal is destroyed by the gash deforming her cheek and lips. It is as if Donald Duck had met Mengele".[40]

Living between Los Angeles and Ireland, Helnwein met and photographed the Rolling Stones in London, and his portrait of John F. Kennedy made the front cover of Time magazine on the 20th anniversary of the president's assassination.[41] His Self-portrait as screaming bandaged man, blinded by forks (1982) became the cover of the Scorpions album Blackout. Andy Warhol, Muhammad Ali, William Burroughs[42] and the German industrial metal band Rammstein[43] posed for him; some of his art-works appeared in the cover-booklet of Michael Jackson's History album.[44] Referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall Helnwein created the book Some Facts about Myself, together with Marlene Dietrich.[45] In 2003 he became friends with Marilyn Manson[46] and started a collaboration with him on the multi-media art-project The Golden Age of Grotesque and on several experimental video-projects. Among his widely published works is a spoof of the famous Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks, entitled Boulevard of Broken Dreams, depicting Elvis Presley, Marylin Monroe, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart.[47] This painting also inspired the Green Day song of the same name.[48]

Examining his imagery from the 1970s to the present, one sees influences as diverse as Bosch, Goya, John Heartfield, Beuys and Mickey Mouse, all filtered through a postwar Viennese childhood.[49] 'Helnwein's oeuvre embraces total antipodes: The trivial alternates with visions of spiritual doom, the divine in the child contrasts with horror-images of child-abuse. But violence remains to be his basic theme – the physical and the emotional suffering, inflicted by one human being unto another.'[50]

References to the Holocaust[edit]

Gottfried Helnwein, "Epiphany I (Adoration of the Magi)", mixed media on canvas, 1996

1988 in remembrance of Kristallnacht (Cristal Night) 50 years earlier, Helnwein erected a large installation in the city center of Cologne, between Ludwig Museum and the Cologne Cathedral: Selektion - Neunter November Nacht ("Selektion - Ninth November Night) A four-meter-high, hundred-meter-long picture lane in which the artist recalls the events of Reichskristallnacht, the actual beginning of the Holocaust, on 9 November 1938. He confronts the passersby with larger-than-life children's faces lined up in a seemingly endless row, as if for concentration camp selection. Just days into the exhibit, these portraits were vandalized by unknown persons, symbolically cutting the throats of the depicted children's faces. Helnwein consciously left the panels with the gashes and included them into the presentation, because he decided it made the work stronger and more relevant.[51][52]

Mitchell Waxman wrote 2004, in The Jewish Journal, Los Angeles: "The most powerful images that deal with Nazism and Holocaust themes are by Anselm Kiefer and Helnwein, although, Kiefer's work differs considerably from Helnwein's in his concern with the effect of German aggression on the national psyche and the complexities of German cultural heritage. Kiefer is known for evocative and soulful images of barren German landscapes. But Kiefer and Helnwein's work are both informed by the personal experience of growing up in a post-war German speaking country... William Burroughs said that the American revolution begins in books and music, and political operatives implement the changes after the fact. To this maybe we can add art. And Helnwein's art might have the capacity to instigate change by piercing the veil of political correctness to recapture the primitive gesture inherent in art.".[53]

One of the best known paintings of Helnwein's oeuvre is Epiphany IAdoration of the Magi, (1996, oil and acrylic on canvas, 210 cm x 333 cm, collection of the Denver Art Museum).[54] It is part of a series of three paintings: Epiphany I, Epiphany II (Adoration of the Shepherds), Epiphany III (Presentation at the Temple), created between 1996 and 1998. In Epiphany I, SS officers surround a mother and child group. To judge by their looks and gestures, they appear to be interested in details such as head, face, back and genitals. The arrangement of the figures clearly relates to motive and iconography of the adoration of the three Magi, such as were common especially in the German, Italian and Dutch 15th century artworks. Julia Pascal wrote about this work in the New Statesman: "This Austrian Catholic Nativity scene has no Magi bearing gifts. Madonna and child are encircled by five respectful Waffen SS officers palpably in awe of the idealised, blonde Virgin. The Christ toddler, who stands on Mary's lap, stares defiantly out of the canvas." Helnwein's baby Jesus is often considered to represent Adolf Hitler.[55]

Works for the stage[edit]

Helnwein is also known for his stage and costume designs for theater, ballet and opera productions. Amongst them: "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, (director, choreographer: Johann Kresnik), Theater Heidelberg, 1988, Volksbühne Berlin, 1995; "The Persecution and Murder of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" by Peter Weiss, (director: Johann Kresnik), Stuttgart National Theatre, 1989; "Pasolini, Testament des Körpers", (director: Johann Kresnik), Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, 1996; "Hamletmaschine" by Heiner Müller, (director: Gert Hof), 47. Berliner Festwochen, Berlin 1997, Muffathalle, München, 1997; "The Rake's Progress" by Igor Stravinsky, (director: Jürgen Flimm), at Hamburg State Opera, 2001; "Paradise and the Peri", oratorio by Robert Schumann, (director, choreographer: Gregor Seyffert & Compagnie Berlin), Robert-Schumann-Festival 2004, Tonhalle Düsseldorf; Der Rosenkavalier" by Richard Strauss, (director: Maximilian Schell) at Los Angeles Opera, 2005,[56] and Israeli Opera Tel Aviv, 2006;"Der Ring des Nibelungen, part I, Rheingold und Walküre", choreographic theatre after Richard Wagner, (director, choreographer: Johann Kresnik), Oper Bonn, 2006; "Der Ring des Nibelungen", part II, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, director, choreographer: Johann Kresnik), Oper Bonn, 2008, "The Child Dreams", by Hanoch Levin, composer: Gil Shohat, directed by Omri Nitzan, Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv, 2009/2010, "Die 120 Tage von Sodom" ("Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom"), nach de Sade und Pasolini, director: Johann Kresnik, Volksbühne Berlin, 2015.


  • 1969–1973 He studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Wien).
  • At that time he began to work on a series of hyper-realistic watercolour-paintings of bandaged and wounded children.
  • 1971 First public Aktions in the streets of Vienna, often with bandaged children (Aktion Sorgenkind, Aktion Hallo Dulder, Aktion Eternal Youth, Aktion Sandra).[57]
  • In the exhibition "Zoetus" at the Kunsthalle "Künstlerhaus" in Vienna, unidentified people put stickers with the words "Entartete Kunst" (degenerate art) on Helnwein's paintings.
  • At the opening of a one-man show at Galerie D. in Moedling, near Vienna, the Major has Helnwein's Artworks confiscated by the police.
  • 1972 An exhibition at the "Galerie im Pressehaus" (Gallery of the House of the Press) is closed after 3 days because of strong protests and threats by the works council.
  • 1979 Spurred into action by an interview in an Austrian tabloid in which the country's top court psychiatrist, Dr Heinrich Gross, admitted killing children at Vienna's Am Spiegelgrund Pediatric Unit during the war by poisoning their food, Helnwein painted Life not Worth Living – a watercolour of a little girl "asleep" on the table, her head in her plate. The painting was published in Austria's leading newsmagazine Profil and sparked a nationwide debate that finally led to Gross' appearing before a Vienna court. The judge ruled Gross was mentally unfit to be tried.[58]
  • 1982 Helnwein was offered a chair by the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg, which he declined.
  • 1983 Helnwein met Andy Warhol in his factory in New York, who posed for a series of photo-sessions.
  • 1984 Austrian and German National Television co-produced the film Helnwein, directed by Peter Hajek (de). In Los Angeles, Helnwein meets Muhammad Ali, who appeared in his film. The film was awarded the Adolf Grimme Prize for best television-documentary and in the same year won the Eduard Rhein Prize and the Golden Kader of the city of Vienna for outstanding camera work.[59]
  • 1985 One man show at the Albertina, Vienna.
  • Besides his realistic work, Helnwein also began to develop abstract, expressive styles of painting during this period. He radically changes his way of working and now begins a series of large-format pictures consisting of several parts (diptychs, triptychs, poliptychs). In doing so he combines photomurals with abstract gestural and monochrome painting in oil and acrylic, also using reproductions of Caspar David Friedrich paintings and war documentary photographs which he assembles to form what Viennese art-critic Peter Gorsen calls "Bilderstrassen" (picture lanes).
  • 1987 Der Untermensch, Gottfried Helnwein, self-portraits of from 1970–1987, one man show at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Strasbourg.
  • Aktion Gott der Untermenschen (God of Sub-Humans), Performance at Camp Kopal, St. Pölten of the Austrian Army, using tanks and ammunition[60]
  • 1988, In remembrance of "Kristallnacht",[61] the actual beginning of the Holocaust – 50 years earlier, Helnwein erected a 100 meter long installation in the city center of Cologne, between Ludwig Museum and the Cologne Cathedral. Since then large scale installations in public spaces became an important part of his work.
  • 1989 One-man show at the Folkwang Museum in Essen.
  • Torino Fotografia 1989, Biennale Internationale, Gottfried Helnwein, David Hockney, Clegg and Guttmann.
  • 1989 Helnwein's photographic work from 1970 to 1989 was published in a monograph by Dai Nipon in Japan. Text by Toshiharu Ito.
  • Helnwein met William S. Burroughs in Lawrence, Kansas.
  • Cooperation with German poet and playwright Heiner Müller and choreographer Hans Kresnik on a play about Antonin Artaud.
  • 1990 One-man show in the Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne. Installation "Neunter November Nacht".
  • 1990 Collaboration with Marlene Dietrich on the book Some Facts about Myself, for the occasion of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her essay that gave the book its title was the last text that Marlene Dietrich wrote in her life.[62]
  • 1991 Installation Kindskopf (Child's Head) in the Minoriten Church in Krems, Niederösterreichisches Landesmuseum (Museum of Lower Austria). Helnwein painted a 6x4 m (18x12 feet) child's head for the apse of the early Gothic basilica.
  • Helnwein finished 48 Portraits, a series of 48 monochrome red pictures of women (oil on canvas) as a counterpart to Gerhard Richter's "48 Portraits" of 1971, which depict only men in monochrome grey. The cycle of paintings was first shown at Galerie Koppelmann in Cologne, and later acquired by collector Peter Ludwig for the Collection of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.
  • Helnwein began to focus on digital photography and computer-generated images which he often combines with classical oil-painting techniques.
  • 1993 One-man show at Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn.
  • Aktion-Reaktion, exhibition of the Austrian painters Arnulf Rainer, Hermann Nitsch, Günter Brus, and Helnwein, works from the Schömer collection, at the Foundation Fiecht, Austria.
  • 1994 Stage design, costumes, and make-up for Macbeth, a production of Hans Kresnik's Choreographic Theatre at Volksbühne Berlin.[63] The play was awarded the Theatre Prize of Berlin.
  • Helnwein curated and organized the first museum exhibition of Disney artist Carl Barks, the creator of the Donald Duck universe, Uncle Scrooge and Duckburg. The retrospective was shown in 10 European museums and seen by more than 400,000 visitors.[64]
  • 1997 Moved to Ireland.[65]
  • In the same year, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg organized a Helnwein retrospective and published a monograph of the artist.[66]
  • German collectors Peter and Irene Ludwig donated 53 works of Helnwein to the collection of the State Russian Museum Saint Petersburg.
  • Photo-session with the German industrial metal band Rammstein. Their album Sehnsucht is released with six different covers by Gottfried Helnwein.[67]
  • Helnwein's Black Mirror, (Self-Portrait, polaroid, 1987) in the show Ghost in the Shell at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
  • 2001 Stage and costume design for the Hamburgische Staatsoper of Igor Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress.[68]
  • 2002 Helnwein established a studio in Los Angeles.
  • 2003 Premiere of the Helnwein documentary Ninth November Night, the Art of Gottfried Helnwein at the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles. Director: Henning Lohner, Commentators: Sean Penn, Maximilian Schell, Jason Lee, Introductory text by Simon Wiesenthal. (Camera: Jason Lee, Darren Rydstrom, Bernd Reinhardt).[69]
  • Collaboration with Marilyn Manson on the multi-media project The Golden Age of Grotesque[70] and video productions like Doppelherz und Mobscene.
  • Installation and performance with Manson at the Volksbühne Berlin.[71]
  • Collaboration with Sean Penn on the Music Video 'The Barry Williams Show' by Peter Gabriel[71]
  • 2004 The Child, Works by Gottfried Helnwein, one-man show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco Fine Arts Museums.
  • Collaboration with Maximilian Schell for the Richard Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier[72] at Los Angeles Opera,[73] and Israeli Opera Tel Aviv.
  • Helnwein takes Irish citizenship.[74]
  • 2005 Helnwein one man show Beautiful Children at the Ludwig Museum Schloss Oberhausen and the Wilhelm-Busch-Museum Hannover.[75] Helnwein retrospective at the National Art Museum in Beijing.
  • 2006 Face it, one man show, Lentos Museum of Modern Art Linz[76]
  • The council of the city of Philadelphia honors Gottfried Helnwein for his artistic contributions in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive[77]
  • 2007 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger acquired the painting "Death Valley (American Landscape I, 2002, oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 300 inches) for the Governor's Council Room at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.[78]
  • Participation in the exhibition Rembrandt to Thiebaud: A Decade of Collecting Works on Paper, De Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
  • 2008 Retrospective at Rudolfinum Gallery in Prague.
  • I Walk Alone, one man show at the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, San Jose State University.
  • On the occasion of the infamous incest case of Amstetten in Austria, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung writes: "Amstetten between discomposure and media-hype: A dungeon amidst the town, a father inflicting martyrdom onto his children – how we struggle to put the pieces of the incomprehensible together. The dungeon in Amstetten touches something deep inside the marrow of the Austrians, their dark side, mirrored in the poems of their authors and in the Images of Gottfried Helnwein, depicting people with forkes pusched into their eyes. Or Girls with blood running down their legs. Helnwein's paintings are nightmares, that tell of the dungeons in our heads..."[79]
  • The last Child, Installation throughout the city of Waterford, Ireland.[80][81]
  • Kunst nach 1970 – Art after 1970, Albertina Museum Vienna.
  • 2009 Friedman Benda Gallery, New York represents Gottfried Helnwein, one man show.
  • Participation in two exhibitions at the Albertina Museum in Vienna: Body and Language – Contemporary Photography from the Albertina Collection, (Gottfried Helnwein, Chuck Close, Marie Jo Lafontaine, Jannis Kounnellis, Helmuth Newton, Erwin Wurm, John Coplans) and Masterpieces of Modern Art, The Permanent Collection of the Albertina and the Baitliner Collection.
  • 2010 For the Israeli Opera Gottfried Helnwein creates sets and costumes for Gil Shohat's opera adaptation of the play The Child Dreams by Hanoch Levin.
  • The Installation Ninth November Night in Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • 2011 Confrontation of the "48 Portraits" by Gerhard Richter and the "48 Portraits" by Gottfried Helnwein as a double-installation in the exhibition "Undeniable me" at Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague. In 1971/72 Gerhard Richter created an iconic set of paintings depicting 48 men that influenced Modernity, based on the black and white reproductions in encyclopaedias. Exactly 20 years later 1991/92, Gottfried Helnwein replied with the counterpart, also called "48 Portraits" depicting 48 women in monochromatic red.[82]
  • 2012 October 18 – Opening of 3 Helnwein exhibitions in Mexico City: Faith, Hope and Charity – Solo exhibition at the Museo Nacional de San Carlos, Song of the Aurora, Galería Hilario Galguera and Santos Inocentes, installation and exhibition at the Monumento a la Revolución.[83]
  • 2012 on 28 Dec Forbes Magazine published an article by Jonathon Keats under the heading: The True Impact of Violence on Childhood? Why every American ought to See the Paintings of Gottfried Helnwein. "Two days after the Sandy Hook school massacre, a survival gear company called Black Dragon Tactical composed a new slogan to promote sales of armored backpack inserts. "Arm the teachers," the company declared on Facebook. "In the meantime, bulletproof the kids... The question may be political, but the keenest response is to be found in a museum in Mexico City, the Museo Nacional de San Carlos, at a retrospective of paintings and photographs by the Austrian-American artist Gottfried Helnwein. Helnwein's extraordinary work depicts the fragile innocence of children. Devoid of grown-up sentimentalism, his images can be overwhelming, especially those that show how that innocence falters in an adult world."[84]
  • 2013 Retrospective at the Albertina Museum in Vienna.


William Burroughs said of Helnwein:

"It is the function of the artist to evoke the experience of surprised recognition: to show the viewer what he knows but does not know that he knows. Helnwein is a master of surprised recognition."[85]

Helnwein is one of the few exciting painters we have today.
Norman Mailer[86]

Well, the world is a haunted house, and Helnwein at times is our tour guide through it. In his work he is willing to take on the sadness, the irony, the ugliness and the beauty. But not all of Gottfried's work is on a canvas. A lot of it is the way he's approached life. And it doesn't take someone knowing him to know that. You take one look at the paintings and you say "this guy has been around." You can't sit in a closet – and create this. This level of work is earned.
Sean Penn[87]

Gottfried Helnwein is my mentor. His fight for expression and stance against oppression are reasons why I chose him as an artistic partner. An artist that doesn't provoke will be invisible. Art that doesn't cause strong emotions has no meaning. Helnwein has that internalized.
Marilyn Manson[88]

Helnwein's subject matter is the human condition. The metaphor for his art is dominated by the image of the child, but not the carefree innocent child of popular imagination. Helnwein instead creates the profoundly disturbing yet compellingly provocative image of the wounded child. The child scarred physically and the child scarred emotionally from within.
Robert Flynn Johnson, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco[89]

Warhol is the pre-Helnwein ...
Dieter Ronte, Museum of Modern Art, Vienna[90]

Selected publications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, "The Child – Works by Gottfried Helnwein", essay for the catalogue of the one man show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, ISBN 978-0-88401-112-5, 2004
  2. ^ a b Sven Michaelsen, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Ich kann mich in kein System einfügen, 46/2013 [1]
  3. ^ Biography Gottfried Helnwein,
  4. ^ [2]Biography Gottfried Helnwein,
  5. ^ Biography, Gottfried Helnwein,
  6. ^ Biography, Gottfried Helnwein, www.helnwein
  7. ^ Biography, Gottfried Helnwein, www.helnwein
  8. ^ Alexander Borovsky, The State Russian Museum St. Petersburg, Gottfried Helnwein, monograph, Palace Edition, p. 405-417, ISBN 3-930775-31-X
  9. ^ Biography, Gottfried Helnwein, www.helnwein
  10. ^ Susanne Madsen, Dansk Magazine, London, Autumn 2006, p. 54-55
  11. ^ Interview, Andreas Mackler talks with Gottfried Helnwein, 13. / 14. July and 21. / 22. September 1990, Verlag C.H.Beck, p.87, ISBN 3406340571,[3]
  12. ^ Herbert Hufnagel, Kurier, Wien, Akademie: Helnwein als Professor-ein Schock?, Interview with Gottfried Helnwein, 13. Feb. 1985
  13. ^ Barnaby Conrad III, San Francisco Chronicle, German Portraits of Pain, Gottfried Helnwein reminds Society of it's Past, July 9, 1992
  14. ^ Gemma Tipton, Irish Times, Fantasy and Reality in one Place’’, June 4, 2016 [4]
  15. ^ Lynell George, Los Angeles Times, Gottfried Helnwein - Dark Inspirations’’, May 30, 2008
  16. ^ Nicholas Haramis, New York Times, The Helnweins will see you now, December 2, 2014 [5]
  17. ^ Mic Moroney, Irish Arts Review, Apocalypse now, Spring 2015, p.86-89
  18. ^ Rose Martin, Irish Examiner, Déise delight — a Suir bet’’, Feb 26, 2011
  19. ^ Maeve Quigley, "Rocker ties Knot with Dita", Sunday Mirror, UK, 4 December 2005 Gottfried Helnwein | IRELAND | Ireland Special | ROCKER TIES KNOT WITH DITA
  20. ^ People magazine, "Marilyn Manson Marries Girlfriend in Ireland", 4 December 2005
  21. ^ The wedding ceremony, Dita and Manson at Castle De la Poer, Ireland 2005, Alejandro Jodorowsky officiates at the wedding, Helnwein is best man, Gottfried Helnwein | ARTIST | Studio | Wedding ceremony, Dita and Manson at Castle De la Poer
  22. ^ Hamish Bowles, Steven Klein, "The Bride Wore Purple", Vogue, pages 546–556, March 2006
  23. ^ Madonna mit dem Kind und der SS, Berliner Zeitung, Arno Widmann, 6.10.2013 [6]
  24. ^ Retrospective at the Albertina Museum,
  25. ^ Susanne Zobl, "Helnwein schliesst seine Albertina Ausstellung - 250 000 Besucher", News, Wien, 2013, [7]
  26. ^ Roland Recht, 'Der Untermensch', Gottfried Helnwein, one-man show, Musée d’Art Moderne, Strasbourg, 1987
  27. ^ Peter Gorsen, ‘’The Divided Self - Gottfried Helnwein in his Self-Portraits’’, ‘Der Untermensch’, Verlag Braus, Heidelberg, 1988.
  28. ^ Nirmala Nataraj, "Gottfried Helnwein's The Child – Innocence Lost", SF Station, San Francisco, 15 August 2004 Gottfried Helnwein's The Child | SF Station
  29. ^ Harry S.Parker III, Director of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, "The Child – Works by Gottfried Helnwein", Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2004
  30. ^ Steven Winn, Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic, "Critics Choices 2004, Top Ten", The San Francisco Chronicle, 26 December 2004
  31. ^ Peter Gorsen, Die Verwandlungskunst des Doppelgängers - zu den Selbstbildnissen bei Gottfried Helnwein, ‘Der Untermensch’, Verlag Braus, Heidelberg, J&V Verlag, Wien, January 1988. ISBN 3-925835-07-5
  32. ^ Peter Selz, Helnwein - The Artist as Provocateur, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Palace Edition 1997, p. 11-98, ISBN 5900872556
  33. ^ William S. Burroughs, ‘Helnwein's Work’,1990."Helnwein Faces", 1992 Edition Stemmle. ISBN 3-7231-0427-4
  34. ^ Peter Gorsen, Die Verwandlungskunst des Doppelgängers - zu den Selbstbildnissen bei Gottfried Helnwein’’, ‘Der Untermensch’, Verlag Braus, Heidelberg, 1988. ISBN 3-925835-07-5
  35. ^ Robert A. Sobieszek, Ghost in the Shell, Photography and the Human Soul, 1850-2000, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2000.
  36. ^ Gottfried Helnwein, "Memories of Duckburg", translation from German: "Micky Maus unter dem roten Stern", Zeit-Magazin, Hamburg, 12.May.1989. Gottfried Helnwein | TEXTS | Selected Authors | MEMORIES OF DUCKBURGAmerican Prayer
  37. ^ Petra Halkes, "A Fable in Pixels and Paint – Gottfried Helnwein's American Prayer". Image & Imagination, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005 (ISBN 978-0-7735-2969-4)
  38. ^ Alicia Miller, "The Darker Side of Playland: Childhood Imagery from the Logan Collection at SFMOMA", Artweek, US, 1 November 2000. Gottfried Helnwein | PRESS | English Press | 'THE DARKER SIDE OF PLAYLAND: CHILDHOOD IMAGERY FROM THE LOGAN COLLECTION' AT SFMOMASFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  39. ^ Gottfried Helnwein, Peinlich, color pencil, india-ink, and watercolor on cardboard, 60 x 35cm, 1971 comic-helnwein
  40. ^ Julia Pascal, "Nazi Dreaming", New Statesman, UK, 10 April 2006 [8]
  41. ^ TIME Magazine Cover: John F. Kennedy, by Gottfried Helnwein, Time magazine, Vol. 122 No. 21, 14 November 1983 TIME Magazine Cover: John F. Kennedy – 14 November 1983 – John F. Kennedy – U.S. Presidents – Kennedys – Politics
  42. ^ Gabriel Bauret, "Gottfried Helnwein", CAMERA International, Paris, 1 December 1992 GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN William S. Burroughs
  43. ^ Studio Helnwein, photo-session with Rammstein, Schloss Burgbrohl, 5 July 1998, Foto-Session with Rammstein Rammstein II
  44. ^ HISTORY – Past, Present and Future, CD cover booklet, Michael Jackson, 2005 Gottfried Helnwein | NEWS | News Update | HELNWEIN'S ART-WORKS IN MICHAEL JACKSON'S "HISTORY" ALBUMLittle Susie, HISTORY, Michel Jackson
  45. ^ Gottfried Helnwein, Marlene Dietrich, "Some Facts about Myself", Edition Cantz, Stuttgart, Kathleen Madden, New York, 1991, (ISBN 978-3-89322-226-1)
  46. ^ Evie Sullivan, Interview with Marilyn Manson, Inrock, Japan, July 2004 Interview with Marilyn Manson The Golden Age, Weeping Officer (Marilyn Manson)
  47. ^ Boulevard of Broken Dreams, watercolor by Gottfried Helnwein, 1984
  48. ^ Green Day: "American Idiots & the New Punk Explosion", The Disinformation Company, 2006, (Page 198), (ISBN 978-1-932857-32-0) Gottfried Helnwein | ARTIST | Bibliography | GREEN DAY: AMERICAN IDIOTS & THE NEW PUNK EXPLOSION
  49. ^ Julia Pascal, "Nazi Dreaming", New Statesman, UK, 10 April 2006
  50. ^ Gregory Fuller, "Endzeit-Stimmung – Düstere Bilder in Goldener Zeit", Du Mont Publishing House, Cologne, 1994.[9]
  51. ^ Roland Mischke, "Aefflinge und Tschandalen", Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11. October 1988.[10]
  52. ^ Simon Wiesenthal, "Thoughts", Ninth November Night, Installation by Gottfried Helnwein, 09. November 1988 [11]
  53. ^ Mitchell Waxman, "The Helnwein Epiphany", The Jewish Journal, Los Angeles, 23 July 2004 [12]
  54. ^ Kelly Grovier, Art since 1989, Thames & Hudson, World of Art, London, 2015, ISBN 9780500204269 [13]
  55. ^ Julia Pascal, "Nazi Dreaming", New Statesman, UK, 10 April 2006
  56. ^ Anthony Tommasini, "A 'Rosenkavalier' Without Ham and Schmaltz?", The New York Times, 31 May 2005.LOS ANGELES OPERA REVIEW – A 'Rosenkavalier' Without Ham and Schmaltz? – Review –
  57. ^ Gottfried Helnwein, Aktion Sorgenkind, Vienna, 1972, Works, Gottfried Helnwein | WORKS | Installations and Performances | Aktion Sorgekind
  58. ^ Kate Connolly, "Helnwein, the man who used his own blood to paint Hitler", The Guardian, UK, 16 May 2000 Gottfried Helnwein | PRESS | International Press | GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN, THE MAN WHO USED HIS OWN BLOOD TO PAINT HITLER
  59. ^ 34.Filmfestival of Berlin, "Helnwein", The film, Peter Hajek, ORF and ZDF (Austrian and German National Television), 1984 [14],[15]
  60. ^ Aktion Gott der Untermenschen, Camp Kopal, Austrian Army, (Kopal-Kaserne, St. Pölten-Spratzern, Panzerbrigade 10, österreichisches Bundesheer), 1987 Gottfried Helnwein | WORKS | Installations and Performances | "Gott der Untermenschen"
  61. ^ Gottfried Helnwein: Kristallnacht | NEWS | News Update | INSTALLATION "NINTH OF NOVEMBER NIGHT" Neunter November Nacht
  62. ^ Some Facts about Myself, Helnwein, Dietrich, Edition Cantz, Stuttgart, 1990, (ISBN 978-3-89322-226-1) Gottfried Helnwein | NEWS | News Update | ZUSAMMENARBEIT MIT MARLENE DIETRICH AN DEM BUCH "SOME FACTS ABOUT MYSELF"
  63. ^ Gottfried Helnwein | ARTIST | Bibliography | SHAKESPEARE SURVEY – SHAKESPEARE AND POLITICSScene from Macbeth
  64. ^ "The Art of Gottfried Helnwein and the Comic Culture", The Carl Barks exhibition, Helnwein-Comic: Carl Bark Exhibition
  65. ^ [16]
  66. ^ The Helnwein Retrospective at the State Russian Museum St. Petersburg Helnwein Retrospective
  67. ^ Rammstein, "Sehnsucht", Motor Music GmbH, Hamburg, 1997 Archived 10 February 2013 at WebCite‹The template WebCite is being considered for merging.› 
  68. ^ – Section Theater and Film – The Rake's Progress
  70. ^ – Section Photography – The Golden Age
  71. ^ a b Volksbühne Berlin: The Golden Age of Grotesque Helnwein painting girl for the "mObscene"-video
  72. ^ Der Rosenkavalier – reviews, reactions Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss
  73. ^ Mark Swed, "Strange but True", The Los Angeles Times, 31 May 2005
  74. ^ Déise delight — a Suir bet
  75. ^ "Beautiful Children" at Ludwig Museum Schloss Oberhausen and Wilhelm-Busch-Museum Hannover, Germany, 2005 Gottfried Helnwein | NEWS | News Update | BEAUTIFUL CHILDRENI Walk Alone
  76. ^ FACE IT – Gottfried Helnwein – One man show Lentos Museum of Modern Art, Linz
  77. ^ Resolution of the council of the city of Philadelphia, No. 060769, 19 October 2006.Gottfried Helnwein: Kristallnacht | NEWS | News Update | COMMEMORATING THE 68TH ANNIVERSARY OF KRISTALLNACHT AND RECOGNIZING THE ARTISTIC CONTRIBUTIONS OF GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN IN KEEPING THE MEMORY OF THE HOLOCAUST ALIVE.Installation "Ninth November Night"
  78. ^ The hanging of "Death Valley", (American Landscape I, 2002, oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 300 inches) at the State Capitol in Sacramento, April 2007 Gottfried Helnwein | NEWS | News Update | GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER RECEIVES HELNWEIN AT THE STATE CAPITOL IN SACRAMENTODeath Valley (American Landscape I)
  79. ^ "At the Abyss – Incest Case in Austria", Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Holger Gertz, 28. April 2008 Gottfried Helnwein | NEWS | News Update | AT THE ABYSSKiss of Judas
  80. ^ "Bloodied but unbowed", The Sunday Times, Gerry McCarthy, 14. September 2008, Gottfried Helnwein | NEWS | News Update | BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED
  81. ^ "The last Child", Installation in Waterford,
  82. ^ Installation 48 portraits by Gerhard Richter and 48 portraits by Gottfried Helnwein, in the "Undeniable me"exhibition at Galerie Rudolfinum, 2011 Gottfried Helnwein | ARTIST | Exhibitions | INSTALLATION "48 PORTRAITS" GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN AND GERHARD RICHTER AT GALERIE RUDOLFINUM, PRAGUEInstallation "48 Portraits" by Gottfried Helnwein and "48 Portraits" by Gerhard Richter
  83. ^ [17][18]Helnwein exhibitions in Mexico City, 2012
  84. ^ Forbes, US, Jonathon Keats, 28 December 2012
  85. ^ "Helnwein Faces", 1992, Edition Stemmle, Switzerland, pages 6–7, ISBN 978-3-7231-0427-9
  86. ^ From a letter by Norman Mailer to Helnwein's wife Renate, written in Provincetown, Massachusetts, 23 June 1989
  87. ^ Statement by Sean Penn in the documentary "Ninth November Night", a Film about Gottfried Helnwein and his Installation for the 50. Anniversary of "Kristallnacht" at Ludwig Museum in Cologne, 1988 and other references to the Holocaust in his Work. Director Henning Lohner, Los Angeles 2003
  88. ^ "Ich bin Amerikas Alptraum", Interview by Christoph Dallach, Jörg Böckem, Der Spiegel, Hamburg, 5 May 2003, page 178, DER SPIEGEL 19/2003 – Ich bin Amerikas Alptraum
  89. ^ "The Child – Works by Gottfried Helnwein", The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 2004, pages 9–23, ISBN 978-0-88401-112-5
  90. ^ Essay by Dieter Ronte about Andy Warhol, Profil, Vienna, 1984

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]