“Hence I rip my clay apart, melt it together, let it glow, and hope to escape loneliness through the realisation of dreams and contacts.”
Kurt Ohnsorg (1927–1970)
Kurt Ohnsorg was born on 25 Dec. 1927 in Sigmundsherberg, Lower Austria and died by his own hand more or less exactly 43 years later—angry, bitter, and plagued by financial woes. Between these dates there unfolded a life packed with controversy, a permanent battle for economic survival, a respectable deal of recognition for Ohnsorg’s art, and countless failures by the artist to achieve the goals he’d set for himself. Ohnsorg’s university studies, which he commenced immediately following the end of the Second World War at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna, pointed the way ahead for the life he was to lead. His professor was Robert Obsieger, a ceramicist who had achieved success and renown during the interwar period.
Ohnsorg graduated from his studies in 1950 and embarked on a career as a freelance artist, providing designs above all to ceramics producer Gmundner Keramik. From 1963 up to his death, he worked out of a small basement studio in Vienna’s 9th district. Filled with old tools, several racks, and lots of fired clay, it looked like a cave house with a fire pit—Ohnsorg’s kiln—in the back.
Over the course of his career as a ceramicist, Ohnsorg also received several public and semi-public commissions—such as from the City of Vienna, from Caritas, and from the Republic of Austria; he also received several prizes and a teaching post at what is now the University of Art and Design Linz. But none of this satisfied him, and it was for the most part barely sufficient for him to stay afloat financially.
Over the course of his artistic career (from 1950 to 1970), Ohnsorg created several hundred sculptures, vases, figures, and wall installations. They were never cheap; on the contrary, they were very expensive excepting when Ohnsorg decided to gift them away as gifts. For Kurt Ohnsorg was self-confident and wholly convinced that his creations were artworks that deserved to fetch appropriate prices.
He evaluated his own work as follows:
“The love of craftsmanship should be viewed not as a sentimental tendency, but as offering what is the still most consummate way in which human beings can deal with material. And one simply cannot do without dealing with it in this way. No creative person dare avoid it, lest he wish to remain stuck to the surface of appearances. Our mission should be to study and shape things on the basis of craftsmanship, to rediscover the richness of the material for the benefit of us all, and pass this on without reservation. He who does not put forth an effort to master the material can be considered questionable both as a personality and as an artist.”
We are now in the fortunate position of being able to offer the collection of an art aficionado who accompanied Ohnsorg his entire life long, thereby purchasing various pieces—a small contribution to helping the oeuvre of this ingenious artist achieve the esteem that it deserves.
Ernst Ploil, Auktionshaus im Kinsky (excerpt from the catalogue of the 123rd Art Auction, Art Nouveau & Design)