(Austrian, b.1929) is considered one of the most inventive Abstract painters of the 20th century, and is known for frequently masking and overpainting illustrations
in his work. Through pursuing a technique concentrated on the destruction of form, Rainer intends to reinvent the pure status of the image, or—as he has commented—to create a symbiosis of the old and new. Rainer briefly studied at the Academy for Applied Arts and the Academy for Fine Arts in Vienna, first painting in a Magic Realist style, and later creating work influenced by American Abstract Expressionism. In the 1950s, Rainer experimented with his overpaintings, covering up previously created drawings with layers of paint and creating a singular, dominant monochrome work. He also created works involving his own body, and painted while under the influence of drugs, using techniques reminiscent of the Vienna Actionist artists.
Towards the late 1950s, Rainer began overpainting photographs of himself in expressive, distorted self-portraits
. His 1970s pieces reflect his meditations on death, evident in his overpainting of deaths masks
, and crucifixion images. Rainer has received international acclaim for his work, honored with the Austrian National Prize for painting, the Rhenus Art Prize, and the Aragón-Goya Prize. The Arnulf Rainer Museum opened in New York in 1993, and a second Arnulf Rainer Museum opened in Baden, Austria, in 2009. Rainer’s work is also shown permanently at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, and retrospectives of his work have been held at the Museum of the 20th Century in Vienna, the Kunsthalle Bern, the National Gallery in Berlin, and at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, among other institutions. Rainer has also participated in documenta exhibitions in Kassel on three separate occasions, and has exhibited work at the Venice Biennale twice. Rainer currently lives in Austria, and in Tenerife, Spain.