As the 20th century progressed, education was made available to all and people became more mobile, artists developed their own styles, free of the need to associate their work with ‘movements’. They were able, for practical purposes, to work under the term ‘contemporary’. They were able to pick and choose their styles, gather inspiration from everywhere and create work that was completely unique. Friedensreich Hundertwasser was one such artist; by the end of the century, he was one of Austria’s most famous contemporary artists.
Friedensreich Hundertwasser was born in Vienna on December 15th, 1928 as Friedrich Stowasser. After high school, he immediately entered the Vienna School of Arts but left after a short time when he decided to travel. After visiting France, Morocco, Tunisia, Spain and Italy, he returned with his new name: Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. The direct English translation of this is ‘Peace-Realm Rainy Day Darkly-Coloured Hundred-Water’. Thereafter, he was known simply as ‘Hundertwasser’.
Hundertwasser's first commercial success was a 1952 exhibition of his paintings in Vienna. That was followed by equally successful exhibitions in Tokyo, Stockholm, New York, Chicago and Bern. The common themes in his work utilised bright colours, organic forms and no straight lines, which he called "the devil's tools". Along the way, he was a painter, architecture doctor and ecological activist.
In the 1950s, he began designing buildings with features such as undulating floors, and trees growing through rooms. He developed new shapes, such as the spiral house and the eye-slit house and became an advocate for environmentally-friendly buildings. It was when he moved to New Zealand, in the early ‘70s, that he realized his dream of living and working in a close connection with nature. on a trip to Europe in 2000, Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser passed away at sea, at age 71.
The manifestation of Hundertwasser’s ideas and ideals in his paintings and buildings impressed and inspired the FREYWILLE artists to create a special collection, one honouring his characteristic artistic elements. Key to two sets are architectural images, colour, and his his favourite shape—the spiral—representing life’s cycle of birth and death.
There are four sets in the Hommage à Hundertwasser collection: Spiral of Life, with its never-ending circles of red, blue and green; 10002 Nights, which is a wildly-coloured fantasy of minarets; and Street Rivers, a bright and happy march of houses. Hundertwasser would be pleased to see that there is not a straight line in sight.