Published: August 24, 2010
From September 16 to January 10, the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art will present an exhibition of work by the Eighteenth Century artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Organized by Guilhem Scherf, chief curator of sculpture at the Musée du Louvre, the exhibition will travel to the Louvre after its showing at the Neue, 1048 Fifth Avenue. This is the first major museum show in the United States devoted exclusively to Messerschmidt.
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736‱783) first made his mark in Vienna, where he enjoyed a distinguished career, including several royal commissions and a faculty post at the prestigious Academy of Fine Art. Working in the neoclassical style, he produced some of the most important sculptures of the Eighteenth Century. In the early 1770s, there was a rupture in Messerschmidt’s life, to which those around him reacted with rejection. The artist was thought to have developed psychological problems, including hallucinations and paranoia. He lost his position at the university and was forced to sell most of his possessions. Messerschmidt left Vienna in 1775, eventually settling in the Hungarian city of Pressburg (today, Bratislava) where he lived for the rest of his life. Around this time, Messerschmidt began to devote himself to the creation of his so-called “character heads,” the body of work for which he would become best known. To produce these works, the artist would look into the mirror, pinching his body and contorting his face. He then rendered, with great precision, his distorted expressions. The artist said that he created these works as a way to protect himself from evil spirits who tortured him. He produced 49 of these astonishing works before he died in 1783.
A fully illustrated catalog, published by Officina Libraria, will accompany the exhibition. With scholarly essays by Guilhem Scherf, Maria Pötzl-Malikova, Antonia Boström and Marie-Claude Lambotte, it provides an overview of the artist’s life and an analysis of his work. The Neue Galerie will offer a series of lectures to accompany the exhibition.
For more information, 212-628-6200 or www.neuegalerie.org .
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