life and work

*23 March 1935 - April 14, 2019


Franz Kernbeis has created an oeuvre full of stereotyped motifs. Houses, animals, flying objects, vehicles, flowers, and particularly trees can be found on the sheets drawn by him. These images created with pencils or colored pencils cannot be described more specifi cally. The tree is simply just a tree – it cannot be classified as any species of tree. A brown trunk and oversized green leaves surrounded by contour lines drawn in pencil and inserted dynamically and purposively onto the picture plane display the artist’s reductive formal idiom. Some of the trees suggest sea anemones moving with the water’s current. The depiction of the subject matter is two-dimensional and is made up of different pieces that seem as though they had been stuck together. He apparently inserts one part into the other and then fills in the shapes. Similar stylistic elements and motifs are represented in his oeuvre from its early phase (beginning in the seventies) to its late phase. One interesting stylistic characteristic of his art is exhibited by the lettering. The titles often display spelling mistakes, and the dates of the works created since 2000 are recorded in a kind of phonetic transcription. The year 2008 is written as “20008” (“two thousand and eight”). Kernbeis’s original profession as a farmhand and his work on his parents’ farm made a deep impression on him. In addition to the tree, which testifi es to this infl uence, we also often fi nd animals like cows and horses seen from the side as well as plows among his small to life-sized images. In 2006 the “Pflug” (plow) actually “blug,” as Kernbeis once labeled it in a drawing, also provided the name for the first exhibition in the newly opened museum gugging.


Franz Kernbeis and his twin brother Johann were born in Prigglitz in the Lower Austrian district of Neunkirchen on March 23, 1935. He was the youngest of seven children and attended the elementary school in Prigglitz for eight years. He subsequently worked as an unskilled laborer on his parents’ farm. Kernbeis’s psychological problems first appeared when he was 17. He has been in permanent care since he was 20; in 1952 he stayed for the first time at what was then the “Mental Health and Care Facility at Gugging.” He has been at Gugging permanently since 1955; in the sixties his psychiatrist Leo Navratil occasionally assigned him the task of drawing something. He has been creating drawings regularly since 1979. In 1981 he moved into the House of Artists with his fellow artists, and lived and worked there until his death on April 14, 2019.

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