Ernst Eisenmayer

Getting to Know:

Ernst Eisenmayer

18 September, 1920 - 28 March, 2018

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We are excited to be selling a large collection of works from the estate of artist Ernst Eisenmayer, including paintings and sculptures from the 1950s and 60s. Austrian-born Eisenmayer moved to London to study in 1939, where he was guided and influenced by his fellow countryman, the poet, playwright and artist Oskar Kokoscha.

Eisenmayer lived and exhibited in the UK for many decades, including at the prestigious Marjorie Parr Gallery and Leicester Galleries. Works by the artist are in the collection of the Ben Uri Gallery, Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery and King’s Lynn Museum. 

Eisenmayer’s works incorporate the aesthetic qualities of the Post-War period in Britain, most notably that of the so-called Geometry of Fear artists, such as Kenneth Armitage and Lynn Chadwick. His sculptures have an industrial, almost militaristic quality to them, the form emerging subtly from the roughly hewn material. Major works are on public display, including at Southlands College, Roehampton and Carlton Forum Leisure Centre, Nottingham. 

The name 'Geometry of Fear’ was coined in 1952 by art critic Herbert Read to describe a group of young British artists, creating sculptures characterised by twisted figures and post-human forms. These sculptures responded to the cataclysmic changes of World War Two and this period of great change and uncertainty. We are fortunate to also have works by other artists from this new generation of sculptors in our sale, including Dame Elisabeth Frink and Robert Adams.

As shown in the recent Barbican exhibition ‘Postwar Modern, New Art in Britain 1945 - 1965’, artists were experimenting with a variety of mediums and forms, responding to the need to rebuild and overcome with innovation. Pioneering British sculptor Geoffrey Clarke RA, born in 1924, was at the heart of the post-war art scene in Britain, utilising non-Western and archaic forms as a fresh means of visual expression as seen in lot 161. Figures such as Denis Bowen not only created a new language in their paintings but developed new platforms for exhibiting art, in his pioneering New Visions Gallery, which celebrated the work of abstract and particularly non-European artists.

Like many artists working in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s, Eisenmayer was a refugee from Nazism. Eisenmayer escaped Dachau concentration camp in April 1939 and was interned on the Isle of Man, along with other émigré artists such as Fred Uhlman, before settling in London, enrolling in Camberwell College of Art and studying under Victor Pasmore. He established a successful career as a painter, sculptor and printmaker, exhibiting in London, Osaka and Vienna. 

As an émigré artist, Eisenmayer drew on his experiences as an artist in exile in London, creating powerful self-portraits, still lives, and industrial landscape works which portray a vivid sense of place. Émigré artists played a huge significant role in post-War British art, as in seen in this sale in the work of Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu MBE, Kathe Strenitz and Adrien de Manasce. De Menasce would create alongside his friend Wilfred Avery, a unique and highly individual contribution to queer visual culture, juxtaposing landscape with the erotic male body.

Eisenmayer lived in Italy and Amsterdam after 1974, finally returning to Vienna in 2011. In 2012, Eisenmayer received the Medal of Honour from the City of Vienna in recognition of his artistic work. He died in Vienna in March 2018, at the age of 97. 

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