Hermann Nitsch (Austrian, b.1938) is a painter, performance artist, writer, and composer, and one of the four members of the Viennese Actionist (or Wiener Aktionismus) movement. The other Viennese Actionists are Otto Muehl (Austrian, b.1925), Günter Brus (Austrian, b.1938), and Rudolf Schwarzkogler (Austrian, 1940–1969). Nitsch began as a graphic artist after studying graphic design in Vienna, but turned to painting in the 1950s under the influence of Tachism and Abstract Expressionism. He was inspired by the works of Paul Cézanne (French, 1939–1906) and Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862–1918), among others.
In 1957, Nitsch came up with the idea for his Orgien Mysterien Theater, a long festival that was inspired by psychological studies and Dionysian orgies, among other influences, with works that involve all five senses. His performances involved, and still involve, the appearance of pagan ceremony, with robed processions, people drinking blood, animal sacrifices, and more. Most of his works—many of them in oil and acrylic—come from what remained after his performances ended. Some of his important paintings include Aktion Painting - Fresco (1981), The Last Supper (1976–1979), and a series of splatter paintings. His performances took place in Vienna at first and resulted in three jail terms. In 1960, he moved to Germany, where he remained until 1978.
Nitsch has staged performances in the United States, in New York and Cincinnati, and in Germany, in Munich and Cologne, among other places. He held his first 12-hour action at the Mercer Art Center in New York in 1972. In 1989, he taught interdisciplinary art at the Frankfurt Academy of Fine Arts. Between 1991 and 1993, his work was exhibited in new countries, with exhibitions in Trieste, Italy, Seville, Spain, and Prague, Czech Republic. A major retrospective of his works was held at the Essl Museum in Klosterneuburg, Austria, in 2003, and another at Martin-Gropius Bau in Berlin in 2006. In 2007, he opened the Hermann Nitsch Museum in Mistelbach, Austria. His work is displayed in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and in many other galleries in North America and Europe.