HomeINTERVIEWMartha Jungwirth: Artistic Innovator...

Martha Jungwirth: Artistic Innovator and Maverick

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Martha Jungwirth, a Viennese artist born in 1940, developed a reputation for her innovative and experimental painting style, which oscillates between the gesturally abstract and formal composition. Her unique approach to color, form, and texture has earned her numerous accolades and recognition, including the prestigious Monsignor-Otto-Mauer Prize in 1961, followed by the Theodor Korner Prize in 1964 and the Joan Miro Prize in Barcelona in 1966. Her work is regarded as one of the most significant contributions to the Neue Wilde movement, which emerged in Austria in the early 1980s.

Martha Jungwirth Artistic Innovator and Maverick

Early Life and Artistic Career

Martha Jungwirth was born in Vienna in 1940 and grew up in the aftermath of World War II. Her childhood was marked by the devastation of war and the political turmoil of the post-war period. Despite the challenging circumstances, she developed a keen interest in art at an early age and began taking painting lessons as a teenager.

In 1963, Jungwirth completed her studies at the Academy of Applied Art in Vienna, where she honed her skills in painting, drawing, and sculpture. She began exhibiting her work in group shows and quickly gained recognition for her unique style, which combined elements of abstraction and figuration.

In 1968, Jungwirth became the only woman in the artists’ group Wirklichkeiten (Realities), which was formed by Otto Breicha, the director of Salzburg’s Rupertinum. The group was created for an exhibition at the Vienna Secession and included five male colleagues. Despite being the only woman in the group, Jungwirth was identified in a review by art historian and museum director Alfred Schmeller: “The first crocodile is a female crocodile.” A year later, she married Schmeller, and their union was perceived by many in the art world as one that made it hesitant to embrace Jungwirth.

Artistic Style and Technique

Jungwirth’s painting style is characterized by an intuitive and explosive spontaneity. She creates subtle color symphonies with dabs and washes of paint, layering oil paints and watercolors on packing paper and cardboard before mounting them on canvas. Her dynamic working style is embodied in the delicate marks and occasional drips that make her work so unique.

Her paintings are often abstract, with gestural brushstrokes and bold colors that evoke emotional responses from viewers. She also incorporates representational elements, such as flowers, animals, and landscapes, into her work, creating a tension between the abstract and the real.

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Exhibitions, Awards, and Recognition

Martha Jungwirth’s work has been exhibited extensively in galleries and museums throughout Europe and the United States. Her recent solo exhibitions include Martha Jungwirth at the Albertina Museum in Vienna in 2018, Martha Jungwirth: Paintings and Watercolors at Galerie Haas in Zurich in 2017, and Martha Jungwirth: Retrospektive at Kunsthalle Krems in 2014.

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Martha Jungwirth, Albertina Museum

In 2012, Jungwirth was awarded the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art in recognition of her contribution to the field of art. Her work is held in the permanent collections of major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich.

Legacy and Impact

Martha Jungwirth’s contribution to the Neue Wilde movement in Austria has been significant, and her unique approach to painting has influenced many artists working today. Her willingness to experiment with color, form, and texture has challenged traditional notions of painting and helped to expand the boundaries of the medium.

Despite the challenges she faced as a woman artist in a male-dominated field, Jungwirth remained dedicated to her practice and continued to produce innovative and inspiring work throughout her career. Her legacy serves as an inspiration to artists and art lovers around the world.


Martha Jungwirth’s life and career are a testament to the power of creativity and perseverance. Her innovative and experimental approach to painting has earned her recognition and acclaim, and her legacy continues to inspire new generations of artists. As a pioneer in the Neue Wilde movement, she pushed the boundaries of painting and challenged traditional notions of the medium. Her work is a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries and inspire new ways of thinking about the world around us.

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