Hannes Richter

Georg Eisler Exhibit at La Jolla’s Athenaeum

Hannes Richter

by Peter Pabisch


Georg Eisler (1928 - 1998) was one of Austria’s international artists who was often better known outside his own country. His name has been acknowledged everywhere in Europe and also in certain regions of America, such as Taos Ski Valley. Since the late 1970s he has taught at special sessions of the University of New Mexico’s German Summer School. In 1976 and again posthumously in 2002, his sketches and drawings were exhibited in Vienna’s Albertina. His oils have been shown in many of Europe’s finest art galleries in Venice, London, Paris and Berlin. His last great exhibit was in Vienna’s Upper Belvedere during the year 1997.

Along with Klimt and Schiele - there can be no doubt that this artist, who studied under Oskar Kokoschka, ranks among the masters of his profession. Fortunately, Californian Martin Breslauer happened to see Eisler’s last exhibit in Vienna a decade ago and became a dedicated Eisler admirer. He not only acquired some of Eislers works for his personal collection, but also convinced Erika Torri, director of La Jolla’s Athenaeum, to show Eisler’s work this year. Among other supporters of the California exhibit were his widow, Dr. Alice Eisler, the Hilger Gallery in Vienna, and the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York.

Eisler’s topics are both political and social in their references to events that took place during the artist’s lifetime. There are scenes of city demonstrations of pedestrians, of New York’s skyscrapers, of London’s underground traffic, jazz night clubs and strip tease bars, and of the lonely existence of newspaper readers in Viennese cafés. As a convincing portraitist, Georg Eisler captured images of renowned authors Erich Fried, Gerhard Roth and Heiner Mueller, along with the actor Ernst Deutsch, which is on permanent exhibition in Vienna’s Burgtheater, Eisler’s colleague Alfred Hrdlicka, the French photographer Henri Cartiers Bresson or literary critic George Lukács.  His landscapes are famous as are his nudes. The latter are collected in his work, “From Naked to Nude.”  Finally, he left a legacy as the illustrator of approximately forty works by Isaac B. Singer, Heinrich Heine, Robert Musil, Karl Kraus, Arthur Schnitzler, Ernest Hemingway, Nicolai Gogol, Guy de Maupassant, and others.

Georg Eisler was multilingual, taught and lectured at institutions of higher learning and participated in television and academic discussions in England, France, Germany, Austria and the United States.  He was the president of the Viennese Secession from the 1960s to the early 1970s and edited the art journal “Ver Sacrum” for some time.  His art was modern but figurative and followed the ‘Secessionist’ tradition of around 1900 as well as the subsequent ‘Expressionist’ movement, from which he established his own powerful opus.