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Franz Xaver Messerschmidt 1736-1783

From Neoclassicism to Expressionism

written by Antonia Bostrom, Maria Potzl-Malikova, Guilhem Scherf

Officina Libraria | ISBN 9788889854549

Hardback – 192 pages


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Working in a neo-classical vein, Messerschmidt first made his mark in Vienna, where he had several imperial commissions. He presented the individual features of his models in a way "true to nature", in keeping with their age and without idealising them. Around 1770, the artist was thought to have psychological problems, lost his position at the university and returned to Wiesensteig, his native Bavarian town. There he devoted himself to the creation of his "character heads", the body of work for which he would become famous. To produce these works, the artist would look into the mirror, make a face, and then render his distorted face with great precision. Messerschmidt produced around 50 of these astonishing works before he died in 1783. Messerschmidt has been compared to artists like William Blake and Francisco Goya for his explorations of the dark side of the human soul. The expressive intensity of his "character heads", in particular, anticipates later developments in art.

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