Friedensreich Hundertwasser was born Friedrich Stowasser in Vienna on December 15, 1928. He studied at the Montessori school in Vienna and in 1948 attended the Fine Art Academy for three months, where he studied nineteenth-century watercolor landscapes. He was deeply affected by the work of Egon Schiele, which was being exhibited in Vienna at the time. In 1949 he went to Italy and met the French artist René Brô, with whom we would later paint murals in Paris. In this period Hundertwasser’s work grew increasingly abstract, despite the persisting presence of symbolic figurative elements. In 1952 his first solo exhibition was held at the Art Club in Vienna.
In 1953 the spiral motif first appeared in his work as a reference to the creation of life; it would later become a constant element in his paintings, which by this time were a combination of contrasting colors and vibrant pigments. The following year he developed his “transautomatism” theory, which focused on the innate creativity of the viewer, and in 1958 he made public his Verschimmelungmanifest, a treatise against rationalism in architecture. In the 1960s Hundertwasser travelled through Europe and Asia and started producing architectural models for ecological structures. He also started refurbishing and decorating public and private buildings. He successfully took part in the Tokyo International Art Exhibition in 1960, and the following year he showed at the Venice Biennale. He developed an interest in graphics during the 1970s and designed the poster for the 1971 Monaco Olympics. In 1973 he published a portfolio of woodcuts by various Japanese artists who had used his paintings as a point of departure, and he also designed stamps, which he considered to be miniature paintings.
In 1972 he published a manifesto on “the right to a window space” and in 1978 the Manifesto of Peace. Both reflected the artist’s ideology about searching for harmony between man and nature. In 1984 the Italian president awarded him a gold medal for best stamp design. In 1998 the Institue Mathildenhöhe of Darmstadt presented a retrospective of his work. The following year the artist moved to New Zealand and continued to work on architectural projects. He died of a heart attack while on board the Queen Elizabeth II on February 19, 2000.