Egon Schiele saw himself as a visionary and prophetic artist, František Kupka forged an abstract style of painting infused with spiritist principles, Joseph Beuys called under the rubric “social sculpture” up for social change due to creative actions, and Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an ecological crusader whose spiral paintings were holistic in essence. These pioneering artistic attitudes and developments would have not come about without contact with several “prophets”. Some of these were artist-naturists, others were modern-day Christs, while still others saw themselves as social revolutionaries of a kind. Their relevance for modern art remains a largely untold story. Today, their names – Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, Gusto Gräser, Gustav Nagel, as well as Friedrich Muck-Lamberty and Ludwig Christian Haeusser – have almost been forgotten. During their lifetime, however, they were widely known among a broad-based public and in avant-garde circles. Artists and intellectuals also admired them, albeit often behind closed doors.
The SCHIRN is presenting a large-scale exhibition on this theme with some 400 works by various artists. They include Egon Schiele, František Kupka, Johannes Baader, Heinrich Vogeler, Joseph Beuys, Jörg Immendorff, and Friedensreich Hundertwasser as well as a variety of documentation materials. The exhibition both reveals causalities and establishes unexpected connections. It also embeds the ‘barefoot-prophets’ and the artistic avant-garde in a wide-ranging social historical context.