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Hundertwasser in New Zealand in 1998
December 15, 1928
|Died||February 19, 2000
aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2
Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (December 15, 1928 – February 19, 2000) was an Austrian-born New Zealand artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection. Hundertwasser (German for "hundred waters") is a pseudonym; he was born Friedrich Stowasser.
Hundertwasser stood out as an opponent of "a straight line" and any standardization, expressing this concept in the field of building design. His best known work is the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, Austria which has become a notable place of interest in the Austrian capital, characterized by imaginative vitality and uniqueness.
The Second World War was a very difficult time for Hundertwasser and his mother Elsa, who were Jewish. They avoided persecution by posing as Christians, a credible ruse as Hundertwasser's father had been a Catholic. Hundertwasser was baptized as a Catholic in 1935. To remain inconspicuous Hundertwasser also joined the Hitler Youth.
Hundertwasser developed artistic skills early on. After the war, he spent three months at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. At this time he began to sign his art as Hundertwasser instead of Stowasser. He left to travel using a small set of paints he carried at all times to sketch anything that caught his eye. In Florence he met the young French painter René Brô for the first time and they became lifelong friends. Hundertwasser's first commercial painting success was in 1952–53 with an exhibition in Vienna.
His adopted surname is based on the translation of "sto" (the Slavic word for "(one) hundred") into German. The name Friedensreich has a double meaning as "Peace-realm" or "Peace-rich" (in the sense of "peaceful"). Therefore, his name Friedensreich Hundertwasser translates directly into English as "Peace-Realm Hundred-Water". The other names he chose for himself, Regentag and Dunkelbunt, translate to "Rainy day" and "Darkly multi-coloured".
In the early 1950s, he entered the field of architecture. Hundertwasser also worked in the field of applied art, creating flags, stamps, coins, and posters. His most famous flag is his koru flag, as well as several postage stamps for the Austrian Post Office. He also designed stamps for Cape Verde and for the United Nations postal administration in Geneva on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 1957 Hundertwasser acquired a farm on the edge of Normandy. Hundertwasser married Herta Leitner in 1958 but they divorced two years later. He married again in 1962 to the Japanese artist Yuko Ikewada but she divorced him in 1966. He had gained a popular reputation by this time for his art.
In 1964 Hundertwasser bought "Hahnsäge", a former saw mill, in the sparsely populated Lower Austria's Waldviertel. There, far from the hustle and bustle and surrounded by nature, he set up a new home.
In the 1970s, Hundertwasser acquired several properties in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, which include a total area of approximately 372 ha of the entire "Kaurinui" valley. There he realized his dream of living and working closely connected to nature. Beside other projects he designed the "Bottle House" there. He could live largely self-sufficient using solar panels, a water wheel and a biological water purification plant. Also his first grass roofs experiment took place here.
In 1980, Hundertwasser visited Washington D.C. to support activist Ralph Nader's efforts to oppose nuclear proliferation. Hundertwasser planted trees in Judiciary Square and advocated on behalf of a co-op owner who was fined for designing her own window. Mayor Marion Barry declared November 18 to be Hundertwasser Day. 
In 1982, Hundertwasser's only child, his daughter Heidi Trimmel, was born.
In a letter from 1954 Hundertwasser described the square as "geometric rectangles compressed columns on the march".
In 1959 Hundertwasser got involved with helping the Dalai Lama escape from Tibet by campaigning for the Tibetan religious leader in Carl Laszlo's magazine Panderma. In later years, when he was already a known artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser became an environmental activist and most recently operated as a more prominent opponent of the European Union, advocating the preservation of regional peculiarities.
Among the lesser-known facets of Hundertwasser's personality is his commitment to constitutional monarchy:
Austria needs something to look up to, consisting of perennial higher values—of which one now hardly dares to speak—such as beauty, culture, internal and external peace, faith, richness of heart [...] Austria needs an emperor, who is subservient to the people. A superior and radiant figure in whom everyone has confidence, because this great figure is a possession of all. The rationalist way of thinking has brought us, in this century, an ephemeral higher, American standard of living at the expense of nature and creation, which is now coming to an end, for it is destroying our heart, our quality of life, our longing, without which an Austrian does not want to live. It is outrageous that Austria has an emperor who did no evil to anyone but is still treated like a leper. Austria needs a crown! Long live Austria! Long live the constitutional monarchy! Long live Otto von Habsburg!
- Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Für die Wiederkehr der konstitutionellen Monarchie (For the Return of the Constitutional Monarchy).[fn 1]
Kaurinui, New Zealand, 28 March 1983; dedicated, on 14 May 1987, to Otto von Habsburg for his 75th birthday.
Hundertwasser's original and unruly artistic vision expressed itself in pictorial art, environmentalism, philosophy, and design of facades, postage stamps, flags, and clothing (among other areas). The common themes in his work utilised bright colours, organic forms, a reconciliation of humans with nature, and a strong individualism, rejecting straight lines.
He remains sui generis, although his architectural work is comparable to Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in its use of biomorphic forms and the use of tile. He was also inspired by the art of the Vienna Secession, and by the Austrian painters Egon Schiele (1890–1918) and Gustav Klimt (1862–1918).
He was fascinated by spirals, and called straight lines "godless and immoral" and "something cowardly drawn with a rule, without thought or feeling" He called his theory of art "transautomatism", focusing on the experience of the viewer rather than the artist. This was encapsulated by his design of a new flag for New Zealand, which incorporated the image of the Koru a spiral shape based on the image of a new unfurling silver fern frond and symbolizing new life, growth, strength and peace according to the Māori people.
Even though Hundertwasser first achieved notoriety for his boldly-coloured paintings, he is more widely known for his individual architectural designs. These designs use irregular forms, and incorporate natural features of the landscape. The Hundertwasserhaus apartment block in Vienna has undulating floors ("an uneven floor is a melody to the feet"), a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. He took no payment for the design of Hundertwasserhaus, declaring that it was worth the investment to "prevent something ugly from going up in its place".
From the early 1950s he increasingly focused on architecture, advocating more just human and environmental friendly buildings. This began with manifestos, essays and demonstrations. For example, he read out his "Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture" in 1958 on the occasion of an art and architectural event held at the Seckau Monastery. He rejected the straight line and the functional architecture. In Munich in 1967 he gave a lecture called "Speech in Nude for the Right to a Third Skin". His lecture "Loose from Loos, A Law Permitting Individual Buildings Alterations or Architecture-Boycott Manifesto", was given at the Concordia Press Club in Vienna in 1968.
In the Mouldiness Manifesto he first claimed the "Window Right": "A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm's reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm's reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door." In his nude speeches of 1967 and 1968 Hundertwasser condemned the enslavement of humans by the sterile grid system of conventional architecture and by the output of mechanised industrial production. He rejected rationalism, the straight line and functional architecture.
For Hundertwasser, human misery was a result of the rational, sterile, monotonous architecture, built following the tradition of the Austrian architect Adolf Loos, author of the modernist manifesto Ornament and crime (1908). He called for a boycott of this type of architecture, and demanded instead creative freedom of building, and the right to create individual structures. In 1972 he published the manifesto Your window right — your tree duty. Planting trees in an urban environment was to become obligatory: "If man walks in nature's midst, then he is nature's guest and must learn to behave as a well-brought-up guest." Hundertwasser propagated a type of architecture in harmony with nature is his ecological commitment. He campaigned for the preservation of the natural habitat and demanded a life in accordance with the laws of nature. He wrote numerous manifestos, lectured and designed posters in favor of nature protection, including against nuclear power, to save the oceans and the whales and to protect the rain forest. He was also an advocate of composting toilets and the principle of constructed wetland. He perceived feces not as nauseous but as part of the cycle of nature. His beliefs are testified by his manifesto The Holy Shit and his DIY guide for building a composting toilet.
In the 1970s, Hundertwasser had his first architectural models built. The models for the Eurovision TV-show "Wünsch Dir was" (Make a Wish) in 1972 exemplified his ideas on forested roofs, tree tenants and the window right. In these and similar models he developed new architectural shapes, such as the spiral house, the eye-slit house, the terrace house and the high-rise meadow house. In 1974, Peter Manhardt made models for him of the pit-house, the grass roof house and the green service station – along with his idea of the invisible, inaudible Green Motorway.
In the early 1980s Hundertwasser remodelled the Rosenthal Factory in Selb, and the Mierka Grain Silo in Krems. These projects gave him the opportunity to act as what he called an "architecture doctor".
In architectural projects that followed he implemented window right and tree tenants, uneven floors, woods on the roof, and spontaneous vegetation. Works of this period include: housing complexes in Germany; a church in Bärnbach, Austria; a district heating plant in Vienna; an incineration plant and sludge centre in Osaka, Japan; a railway station in Uelzen; a winery in Napa Valley; and the Hundertwasser toilet in Kawakawa.
In 1999 Hundertwasser started his last project named Die Grüne Zitadelle von Magdeburg (in German). Although he never completed this work, the building was built a few years later in Magdeburg, a town in eastern Germany, and opened on October 3, 2005.
The extensive work of Hundertwasser includes 26 stamps for various postal administrations. Seventeen of these designs were – in part after his death – implemented as a postage stamp.
Two of the unrealized designs are alternative designs for a stamp issue (United Nations, Senegal) and were therefore not performed. Seven other designs created for the postal administrations of Morocco and French Polynesia, were not realized as a postage stamp.
In addition, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, has adapted some of his works for stamp issues. On the basis of these adaptations have been stamps issued by:
The Austrian post office used more Hundertwasser motives for the European edition 1987 (Modern architecture, Hundertwasser House), on the occasion of his death in 2000 (painting Blue Blues, under the WIPA 2000) and 2004 National Donauauen (poster: The outdoors is our freedom at civil protests in Hainburg).
For the first time a Hundertwasser motive was also used on a Cuban stamp, as part of the art exhibition Salon de Mayo (Havana, 1967).
With the exception of service marks for the Council of Europe and the Cuban stamp, all stamps were engraved by Wolfgang Seidel and by the Austrian State Printing Office in a complex combination printing process produces (intaglio printing, rotogravure printing, as well as metal stamping).
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