Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Paul Kirnig

 Paul Kirnig, Self-Portrait, 1923

Paul Kirnig (1891-1955) was born in Bielitz (today Bielsko-Biała, Poland), Silesia, a province of the Habsburg empire. He moved to Vienna in 1908. After his period of compulsory military service and 2 years studying chemistry at the Technical University he was called up in 1914. Heavily wounded in the battles of Monte San Michele on the Italian front in the summer of 1915, he did not return to front line duties. 

Paul Kirnig, Town, 1923 (Futuristic vision of Vienna Donaukanal looking upstream from Aspern Bridge)

On returning to Vienna at the end of the war, aged 27, he enrolled at the Kunstgewerbeschule to study graphic art. At that time the Kunstgewerbeschule was considered one of the leading arts and crafts colleges in Europe. Oskar Kokoschka, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffman, Alfred Roller and Franz Cizek, to name but a few, were teachers there. During his studies Paul Kirnig attended Franz Cizek’s course in Ornamental Morphology. This was the birthplace of the expressionist art form Kinetism, and in his graphic work Kirnig became for a brief period a prominent representative of this movement. 

 Paul Kirnig, Blast Furnace, 1934

After completion of his studies at the Kunstgewerbeschule in 1922 Kirnig spent a period of two years painting and freelancing as a commercial artist. All early paintings, Suzanna and the Elders, the Self-portrait, the Town, Thistles, Christmas roses, Apples stem from this period. In 1924 the director of the Kunstgewerbeschule, Alfred Roller, invited Paul Kirnig to join the staff as assistant to Bertold Loeffler, and in 1935, on the retirement of his old teacher, Kirnig took over as head of department. He remained in this post until his own retirement in 1953. He died on 24 August 1955.

Paul Kirnig, Approaching Storm, 1930 

During his lifetime Paul Kirnig was well known for his work and teaching in the field of commercial art and was regarded as the creator of the modern Austrian poster. His paintings, however, unknown outside a small circle of friends, have only recently attracted attention. This is not surprising. He belonged to no artistic groups and only a small number of paintings were sold in the mid twenties.  He considered his paintings to be ahead of their time. Certain that his art would be appreciated in the future he asked the family to look after the paintings and keep the collection together as "in fifty years time people will want to look at them". The stress of the politically turbulent times in central Europe resulted in no major paintings being conceived after 1938. You can see more of Kirnig's works here.

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