Edited by Klaus Albrecht Schröder. Text by Elsy Lahner, Klaus Albrecht Schröder, et al.
Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein (born 1948) has enjoyed longstanding notoriety for his cross-media depictions of wounded children. Updating an artistic tradition of transgressed childhood innocence (Goya, Messerschmidt) with the visceral brutality of Viennese Actionism, Helnwein’s hyperrealistic paintings--as well as his photographs, multimedia works and performances--are truly confrontational, insofar as they permit the viewer no complacency and no escape. His subjects are most often children, usually depicted in a menacingly cold, shadowy light, who are very clearly in emotional or physical pain (or both). Like his near-contemporary Anselm Kiefer, Helnwein has also broached the topic of the Holocaust, mostly famously in his painting “Epiphany I,” in which a group of SS officers surround a mother and child. The question Helnwein’s works dare to pose is: how can such ‘adult’ violence befall such fragile and unworldly creatures? The most substantial Helnwein overview yet published, this volume marks the artist’s 65th birthday, and presents all stages of his artistic development, from landmark works of photorealism such as “Peinlich” (“Embarrassing”) from 1971 to 1982’s “Self-Portrait” (“Blackout”), which achieved fame worldwide as a Scorpions album cover, to more recent works such as the disturbing series Disasters of War, which focuses on severely injured children and teens.