Josef Pillhofer

1921 (Vienna) - 2010 (Vienna)

After attending the Arts and Crafts school in Graz from 1938-1941, Josef Pillhofer studied with Fritz Wotruba and Herbert Boeckl at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna from 1947-1950.; As a student of Ossip Zadkine, he obtained a French state grant for Paris from 1950 - 1951. In Paris, he contacted Laurens, Brancusi, Giacometti and other important artists, met the poets Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann and became a friend of them. In 1954 and 1956, he participated in the Venice Biennale. From 1954-1970, Pillhofer taught at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, becoming a professor in 1970 and directing the sculpture master class in Graz. From 1971-1974, he worked as a full professor for art design at the University of Technology, Graz, in 1986 he was a visiting professor at Salzburg Summer Academy. From 1954 to 1956, he participated in the Venice Biennale.

A core subject in Pillhofer’s oeuvre is the human figure. In his works, abstract and reduced figures contrast with realistic representations. He explained this ambivalence with his close relationship to nature, which he continuously challenged. His approach to nature came from outside, by realistically representing it, but he also dealt with nature’s inner essence, which allowed it to be reflected in his art. From an artistic point of view, he was inspired by cubism with which he was intensively occupied. For Pillhofer, this was an occasion for focussing on the problem of spatiality and the analysis of form. Pillhofer’s solutions are simple and elementary, albeit formally condensed and reduced. As materials, he used stone, wood, clay and plaster, as well as metal for his tectonic figures.

In 1968, the artist was awarded the Austrian State Prize, and in 1979, the Prize of the City of Vienna. In 1983, he was honoured with the Prize of Honor and in 1996, with the Styrian Great Cross of Merit.