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Johann Hauser

Austrian, 20th century.
Born 1926, Bratislava, Slovakia; died 1996, Gugging, Austria.


Born an orphan in 1926 in what is now the Czech Republic, Hauser was placed in a home for mentally disabled children. At age 17, he was placed in a psychiatric hospital, and in 1947, was transferred to Gugging, where he would live for the rest of his life. He began to draw with colored pencils soon after moving to Gugging, and his early work soon came to the attention of Dr. Leo Navratil, who observed him closely and took over his primary care in 1966.

Hauser's drawings are raw and erotic, marked by a garish palette. The artist focused his attention on the female form, in which he saw not only an object of desire, but also a source of great power. For Hauser, eroticism was a violent force, evident in his agitated figures, exaggerated physiognomy, and gestural force lines.

Hauser's work and behavior were instrumental in the development of Dr. Navratil's "anti-psychiatric" vision of a free, communal environment for asylum artists that would be realized in 1981 with the inauguration of Gugging's House of Artists. Hauser's unmedicated manias - during which he was observed to be at his creative peak - were for Dr Navratil proof that psychiatric practices interfered with creativity. This radical view held sway during the 60s and 70s, but is no longer in fashion.

Viennese artist Arnulf Rainer visited Hauser at Gugging from the 60s until the latter's death in 1996. The two worked side by side, often following collaborative parameters established by Rainer. Rainer's own conceptual-photographic self-portraiture is characterized by violent, anatomical distortion, a trait that reveals Hauser's influence, but also the Insider's homage to his Outsider muse. This partnership was celebrated by the exhibition Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art in 1992, and again in the exhibition Hauser/Rainer: Parallel Visionaries.

- Jenifer P. Borum


Selected Exhibitions

2013, Véhicules, Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne

2010, The Museum of Everything, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin

2006, Inner Worlds Outside, traveling exhibition, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundacíon "La Caixa," Madrid; WhiteChapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

2005, Dubuffet & Art Brut, traveling exhibition, Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, Germany; Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne; Museum of Modern Art Lille Metropole, Villeneuve-D'ascq, France

2004, Hauser/Rainer: Parallel Visionaries, Austrian Cultural Forum, London

1992, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

Selected Collections

Collection abcd, Montreuil
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen
Setagaya Museum, Tokyo

Selected Bibliography

The Museum of Everything, exhibition catalogue, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli & Electa, Turin/Milan, 2010.

Inner Worlds Outside
, exhibition catalogue, Fundacíon "La Caixa," WhiteChapel Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art & Ediciones El Viso, Madrid, 2006.

Dubuffet & Art Brut
, exhibition catalogue, 5 Continents & Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, 2005.

Aigner, Carl, and Helmut Zambo, Johann Hauser: Im Hinterland des Herzens, Brandstätter Verlag, Vienna, 2001.

Tuchman, Maurice and Carol S. Eliel, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1992.

Thévoz, Michel, "Johann Hauser," L'Art brut, fascicle 12, Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, 1983.

Cardinal, Roger, "The Enigma of Johann Hauser," Artscribe, No. 17, April 1979.

Navratil, Leo, Johann Hauser: Kunst aus Manie und Depression, Rogner & Bernhard, Munich, 1978.

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