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Gallery – obsessed with a life story

Gallery – obsessed with a life story

It began in 1977. Herwig Zenz (1943-2019), with his continuing style of painting, also used remnants of copperplates to record current experiences in the art world and in high school drawing lessons, both drawing and needlepoint writing. Figure, date, comment, underline, and continue reading from top to bottom the next day until about 40 cm are filled in; Old oriental in lines, but also similar to manga or comics. If nothing important happened to him that day, the date was enough. It grew from about 850 narrow copper plate prints, which Herwig Zenz commented as: “Manic – absolutely pointless”.

Hundreds of adjacent strips, printed in 2005 in a process that was too difficult even for experienced printer Kurt Zinn, resulted in the world’s longest etching at 40 metres. The 28 diaries by Gerda Zens have now been donated to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (KHM), where they can be seen in the Bassano Hall, partially wrapped.

Curator Hanna Schneck researched references to the house. There are many of them – from his Variations on the Spain Masters in a show from 2005 to Antonio Canova’s Theseus Collection and Emperor Maximilian to references to other masterpieces. “Herwig Zens in one piece” has been supplemented with single sheets, engraving plates, and documents and has been exhibited only once in Spain, as well as in its entirety when he retired in 2006, including the Academy Hall on Schillerplatz.

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Self-portrait at first, interpreted in the role of narrator, as it has been known since ancient friezes, which was important to the comprehensively educated. On high-quality French watercolor paper the essentials of the artist’s life unfold: dreams of self-reflective portraits and sketches of ideas, studio work, the troubles and joys of teaching at the Academy, travels and private trips. Always a return to Spain and Mount Athos, visits to exhibitions throughout Europe, art exhibitions with comments of praise and criticism, galleries and many meetings, especially visits to and from friends.

The Zens’ sarcasm is particularly amusing, especially when hated Academy sessions are described as time-consuming nonsense, or friends like Rainer Bischof are caricatured not as musicians but as bad cooks. His stutter is marked by hectic travel days, struggles with trim and little spare time in the studio. The comments about his severe heart condition and numerous hospital stays are also shocking.

A brilliant reworking of a painting by Barnet Fabritius, the work, which breaks all records and also represents a figure of the art scene that extends far beyond Vienna, is best preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Because the artist, who died on September 24, 2019, found the presentation of the reworked Spanish painting to be his most beautiful, despite the activity of international exhibitions. The museum now has the opportunity to confront the old masters with contemporary art, including an extraordinary example. Artistic reflections and reflections on artistic mediation and transit and historical art theory are also included.