The painter Wolfgang Hollegha is dead. He died on Saturday in the early hours of the morning at the age of 94, his gallery Ulysses confirmed in response to an APA request.

Wolfgang Hollegha was born on March 4, 1929 in Klagenfurt; his father died before birth and his mother soon after. He grew up with his mother’s sister in Frohnleiten, Styria – very close to his long-time home on Rechberg. After graduating from high school in Graz, he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna from 1947 to 1954, studied in Josef Dobrowsky’s master class and became friends with Josef Mikl. Together with Markus Prachensky and Arnulf Rainer, the two founded the “St. Stephan Painting Group” in 1956 around the churchman and art friend Monsignor Otto Mauer, which was to lead the triumph of expressive abstraction in Austria.

Exhibition New Gallery Graz

© Umj

The opportunity for international fame quickly presented itself: in 1958, Hollegha received the Guggenheim Prize, and in 1959 he was discovered by the New York art critic Clement Greenberg, who invited him to a group exhibition with the stars of abstract painting such as Morris Louis, Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland and David Smith invited. In 1960, Greenberg also brought the young Austrian to New York for a solo presentation. Hollegha exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum twice, in 1964 and 1966. Despite these successes, the artist decided not to stay in New York, then the center of modern painting, but returned to Austria, bought his 400-year-old farm on the Rechberg and began building his 14-meter-high summer studio tower in the Seclusion.

In 1961, Hollegha was awarded the Carnegie Prize in Pittsburgh, and in 1964 he presented his work at the “documenta III” in Kassel. The following year he accepted the Körner Prize, followed in 1967 by the Joanneum Art Prize of the State of Styria, and in 1990 the artist received the Gold Medal of Honor from the federal capital Vienna. At the age of 90, he was honored with the Great Golden Decoration of Honor of the State of Styria.

The work “Holzstück III” by Wolfgang Hollegha from 1966

The work “Holzstück III” by Wolfgang Hollegha from 1966

© APA /Unknown

From 1972 to 1997, Hollegha worked as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he most recently led a master class in painting. He retired together with Arik Brauer, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Anton Lehmden and Josef Mikl. Hollegha’s pictures can now be found in numerous Austrian museums – such as the Albertina, the Belvedere or the mumok.