Work and life

1919, October 5 - 2008, September 23


The beginnings of Johann Fischer’s artistic development are linked directly with his move into what is now the House of Artists in 1982. Stimulated by the people around him there, who were working creatively in diverse ways, he soon began to reach for pencil and paper himself. Initially he used only pencils and black colored pencils. In 1984 he then also began to draw with other colored pencils, particularly in warm tones of yellow and brown; over the years, this was heightened into complexly interwoven, boldly colorful works. While he initially created only drawings with animals and people from specifi c professions, over time he began to supplement his depictions through lettering and text. The passages of text featuring his calligraphic script are written on lines drawn by the artist himself. The texts are repeatedly numbered, defi ning the order in which they are to be read. These medium-sized sheets, which he made from the late 1980s onward, possess an unbelievable intensity and density.
The thematic areas here are significantly more diverse: Family, illness, agriculture, devices, Catholicism, and particularly Austria can be found here. Fischer was political and often wrote about Austria – his “sovereign” Austria – as a patriot. However, he offered not only praise but also criticism: He wanted to expose injustices and also used his drawing as a platform for proclaiming his dissatisfaction.


Johann Fischer was born on October 5, 1919, in Eggendorf am Wagram, located just a few miles from today’s Maria Gugging. He was the third of seven children, and his parents operated a small farm with a vineyard. He attended elementary school and completed an apprenticeship as a baker up to his examination as a master tradesman. The Second World War broke out when he was 20 years old. In 1940 Fischer was conscripted into the German military and was then captured as an American prisoner of war. One year after the war ended, Fischer returned back to his parents’ farm and ultimately began to run it. From then on, he led his life as a winegrower and cherished the wish to marry and start a family. He sought psychiatric treatment for the fi rst time in 1957; afterwards he began working as a baker again. In 1961 Fischer became a permanent patient at what was then the “Mental Health and Care Facility at Gugging.” In 1982 he fi nally became part of the group of residents in the center for art psychotherapy founded by Leo Navratil, which is now the House of Artists. Inspired by the people around him, who were artistically expressing themselves in extremely diverse ways, Fischer himself took up pencil and paper, and that is when he began drawing independently and regularly. As early as 1983, he was already participating in an exhibition of the Artists from Gugging at Vienna’s Museum Moderner Kunst. Fischer passed away on September 23, 2008, at the age of 88.

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