Rainer, Arnulf

Austrian painter, printmaker, photographer, and collector, Arnulf Rainer was born in the spa town of Baden, near Vienna. He had virtually no formal instruction in art (he stayed for a total of less than a week at the two art schools he attended in Vienna in 1949 – 50), and his technical procedures are often unconventional. His early works, mainly drawings and prints, were inspired by the fantastic vein of Surrealism, and after a visit to Paris in 1951 he was influenced by Abstract Expressionist and Art Informel paintings that he saw there. Although he met André Breton in Paris, he soon moved away from Surrealism, and in the mid-1950s he began producing Overpaintings, in which he took as a basis a painting, drawing, or photograph (either his own work or someone else’s) and partially obliterated the image with monochromatic color. A similar concern with reworking surfaces occurs in many of his prints, in which he sometimes uses the same plates again and again. Overpaintings dominated Rainer’s work for about a decade, until the mid-1960s, but he also produced a series of cruciform pictures during this period.  In 1963 he began collecting Art Brut and the following year he began experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs—indications of his interest in extreme emotional states. From 1973 he sometimes painted with his fingers.