Maria Lassnig, 1919–2014. Major figure of postwar painting dies, marking the end of an influential 70-year career

Maria Lassnig, Selbst mit Meerschweinchen, 2000, oil on canvas, 122 x 97 cm. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich

Artist Maria Lassnig (born in Carinthia, 1919), considered the grande dame of Austrian art, died on 6 May, at the age of 94, The Guardian reports. A major figure of postwar painting, Lassnig's work included an investigation of the representation and perception of the body through a large series of self-portraits, which she called ‘body-awareness paintings’. With very gestural and expressive brushstrokes, her paintings externalised inner emotions and traumas, resulting in distorted and tense depictions of the female body in unrealistic yet revealing colours. A feminist as well as a committed artist, Lassnig also tackled darker subjects such as warrior children, the end of life in hospitals and gender equality, maintaining a tension between tragedy and humour. 

Lassnig represented Austria at the 1980 Venice Biennale, and also participated in two editions of Documenta, and the 8th Gwangju Biennale among other exhibitions. She has had solo shows at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, at MUMOK in Vienna, at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, at the Serpentine Gallery in London and at the Lenbachhaus in Monaco.

Last year, Lassnig was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2013 Venice Biennale, and her work is now the subject of a retrospective, on through 25 May, at MoMA PS1

8 May 2014