Signatur Kornberger
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Commission works

 

Working as graphic artist

Kunst-am-Bau

Industrial images - Kornberger on his art

Commissions and purchases

Works owned by

Graphic work cycles

 


Working as graphic artist

Despite generous support which Alfred Kornberger received through grants and in spite of early exhibition successes, it was not so easy for him to earn a living as an artist. In his report on the occasion of the 65th Birthday of the artist, Eduard Arnold recounted his own recollections of the artist where he also recounts the difficult early years: »When the young artist auditioned in the Galerie Würthle, the then director Wotruba told him that his work would make better handicrafts. What Kornberger also understands today is that not yet free from paragons such as Picasso, his works at that time were still artistic experiments culminating in their own artistic personality. Since during the 1950s the gallery scene was very confined and he did not want to be entirely without financial means, he turned to commercial graphic design and worked with three large companies.«1

As a graduate of the Vienna Academy, Alfred Kornberger had the opportunity to teach drawing courses at middle schools. Although many of his Academy classmates used these opportunities Kornberger rejected them for himself. Routine school service was opposed to his urge to work independently. However, Kornberger had the opportunity to build on his completed lithography studies and to work as a graphic artist. From about 1958 on he completed numerous commissions from a number of large enterprises in Vienna. His main clients were the steel company Simmering-Graz-Pauker AG, the construction company Rigips Ges.m.H and the Scandinavian airline company SAS. For these companies Kornberger designed logos, produced promotional materials, designed exhibition stands and showcases. Kornberger was by far not the only artist who came from working class backgrounds and found a reliable earning in the graphics industry. Other examples were artists such as Karl Anton Fleck, who alongside his graphic creations worked as a retoucher, Wilfried Zimmermann who was a repro-photographer, as well as Kurt Phillips a professional chemical photographer, and Fred Nowak who worked as a gravure printer.2

In 1950 Kornberger met his future wife Nevenka Kornberger. She came from Zagreb, Croatia. Her father, a native of Vienna, had come to Croatia as a child. After the Second World War the father moved back to Vienna and lived in the same house as the family Kornberger. From then on the friendship between Nevenka and Alfred did not break off and by the time in 1954 Nevenka also moved to Vienna to join her parents the two were already a close couple. However, they did not marry immediately. This was due to Kornberger's concern that he would not be able to provide for his wife financially with his artistic activities. It was only after the first commissions for Kunst-am-Bau were executed, in which Nevenka also participated energetically, that the couple was able save enough, and decided to get married in 1960.

When the orders from the company Simmering-Graz-Pauker AG failed to materialize in 1970 due to a changed company policy, Kornberger also hardly received commissions from other companies. In the meantime, however, the commissions had consolidated his position as an artist. Periodic purchase were made by among other the Kulturministerium (Culture Ministry) of the City of Vienna under the direction of Robert Schmitt who was also a fellow artist of Alfred Kornberger, as well as the Wiener Städtische Versicherung which commissioned Kornberger for numerous cycles of Vienna sights.

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Kunst-am-Bau

For Alfred Kornberger and many of his artistic colleagues the commissions from Kunst-am-Bau meant an additional source of income. Between 1960 and 1970 Kornberger received a number of orders for monumental glass mosaics and graphics. The biggest challenges for these commissions were in addition to the unusually large dimensions, their unusual formats. Almost always the specifications for the glass mosaics were either extremely narrow vertical formats or narrow horizontal landscape formats. Kornberger not only provided the drafts of the orders but carried them out by himself. It was necessary first to create a draft with a 1:1 scale on paper. The artist, together with his wife Nevenka, then glued the individual mosaic stones on this design with his own. Finally, the paper was directly mounted on the façade wall and pasted using a special technique.

Textbilder - Sgraffito, Volksschule Niederleis, 1964 (24m2)The first commission from the Kunst-am-Bau was for a glass mosaic in the extreme vertical format for the facade of the apartments in Vienna 2, Untere Donaustraße 35. The work was completed in 1961. For the mosaic in the height of over nine meters and a width of approximately three meters, which should give a seven-story windowless wall structural and decorative style, Kornberger chose as subject a sailing ship with a flying seagull with repeated representation of the sun balls which send their rays obliquely downwards. In the mosaic the colour is restrained, blue tones and rich spectrum or ochre and brown tones dominate. Stylistically Kornberger chose for many façade mosaics the characteristic method of balancing between the objective geometric representation and stylization.
1964, Kornberger was commissioned to design graffiti for elementary schools in of Zelking and Niederleis in Lower Austria (see figure right). The sgraffito technique works with the principle of overlaying, multi-colored layers of wall plaster, each of which will vary depending on the artistic design they have. Corresponding to this material shaped by technology, the artist restricted himself to particularly simple outlines and reduced colored surfaces. For the motifs of both graffiti Kornberger apparently used the motif repertoire of textbooks for elementary school pupils.

A year later there followed the facade design for two residential buildings in Vienna. For the house in the 19th district of Vienna, Formanekgasse 26, Kornberger designed three glass mosaics that are located between, above and below two overlapping windows along the width of the window. Most of the presentation is of bird motifs.

Textbilder - Glasmosaik Blumengasse 13, 1170 Wien, 1965, (160 x 70 cm)At an apartment building in the 17th district of Vienna, Blumengasse 13, Kornberger designed a glass mosaic which frames two adjacent windows (see figure left). Again already familiar motifs appear such as birds or plants, but the figural motifs occur in the face of the dominant geometrical surface structure in the background. Rectangular and quadratic surfaces in different colours form a decorative, constructivist surface pattern with their mutual overlapping and interpenetration.
In 1966-67 four mosaics were created for an apartment building in the 21st district of Vienna, Pilzgasse 19-21, each used as a three meter balcony wall. All four mosaics vary according to a similar compositional scheme.
In dense groupings, largely nonrepresentational forms of different sizes and colors turn into a highly decorative cluster of forms whereby on closer inspection many individual shapes emerge as components of machines and the like. These motives find their origin in the cycle of machine images on which Kornberger had worked on at the same time. There the depictions of machines and technical equipments made up the picture image motifs. Compared with the oil paintings however, there was a higher expectation in the case of glass mosaics in terms of a decorative composition of the whole. Kornberger shifts the design of the mosaics to the vicinity of compositions, as the later Wassiliy Kandinsky had done in his works and which among the generation of the artists after 1945 enjoyed an iconic status.
In two further orders for glass mosaics Kornberger was again confronted with extreme formats. For a house in the 18th district of Vienna, Kreuzgasse 27, he designed in 1967 two long stretched surfaces, each six meter long and barely one meter wide. For this project he chose a strictly constructivist scheme which threads mainly rectangles, quadratic and circular segments of different size and color. In 1968 he designed for the house on Krummgasse 5-8 in the 3rd district of Vienna, a twelve meters long and one and a half meter wide glass mosaic that extends along the windowless wall area below two balconies. Possibly at the request of a client Kornbeger designed this mosaic in a representational style. The glass mosaic that Alfred Kornberger consturcted for a wall of the courtyard in the apartment building on Rennweg 102, in the 3rd district of Vienna was likewise of a representational nature.
The nearly three meters high and about five meter wide depicts a farmer sowing. The glass mosaics which Kornberger subsequently designed for a commission from the City of Vienna for Großfeldsiedlung in 21st district of Vienna, had objective representations as theme.3 The five mosaics that were created in 1969-70 for Component 5, Block 14-18, depict literary figures such as Don Quixote, Münchhausen or Till Eugenspiegel. In 1972 there followed for the Component 6A, building 1-5, the Großfeldsiedlung, four more glass mosaics with depictions of bird motifs such as owl, rooster, pigeon and grouse.

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Industrial Images - Kornberger on his art

Textbilder - Plakat Leoben 1970In 1969 the Oesterreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft commissioned Alfred Kornberger to produce representations of its plants. The painter had a free choice of subjects and was able to visit all production plants. It was agreed to accept fifteen watercolors, but the mining company purchased all the forty-seven watercolors works created by the artist.4 In June 1970 works by Kornberger were exhibited in the Montanistischen Hochschule under the title »Alfred Kornberger. Aquarelle und Lithographien aus dem Eisenhüttenwesen (Alfred Kornberger, Watercolors and lithographs from the iron and steel industry)«. The local newspapers reported extensively about the exhibition.5

In the Studentenzeitung (student newspaper) of the Montanistische Hochschule Leoben, Kornberger published a long article entitled » Die Industrie - Gegenstand künstlerischer Auseinandersetzung (The industry - the subject of artistic discourse)«.6 There the artist not only took a detailed look at the commission of the Montangesellschaft, but also commented on the general principles of his work. Since hardly any later personal expressions of the artist about his work are known, these notes constitute particularly valuable insights into the principles Kornberger's art.

First Kornberger pointed out that immediately prior to the commission of the mining company he had completed a cycle of images with motifs from paintings that stretched over three years and had only the movement as their subject. »The artistic confrontation with this problem was of utmost importance for me, because on the one hand it became clear to me what importance the colors have when they are put in motion. On the other hand, with the knowledge gained it was possible to penetrate deeper into the matter of the task at hand.«

Kornberger defended his adherence to the objective representation. The starting point for this is the important role that objective motive occupies for artistic expression: »The commonly held view, that paint a subject is no longer worthy of an artist, is affirmed only by those who can not find any relationship with the subject. Certainly, a painter should also occupy himself with other tasks. For example, he has to deal with general problems that already touch the fields of the abstract - such as colour, line, area, space and time - in order to create clarity. The real motive, however, lends itself to the painter. He takes a stand on the colorful and structural experience, allows it to affect him and processes it mentally. Depending on temperament, he will now carry out a translation through the intuition of the experienced, or he draws only so much inspiration from the reality in order to have an excuse to paint a picture about it. But in both cases the idea of the image will be of importance. Thus begins the actual creative act.«

In the following Kornberger discusses in detail the importance of the color as a significant means of expression: »In addition to the order, which the painter creates in his pictorial world, he also has a medium at his disposal which is probably the most important for his message: the color. With it he can describe feelings, moods, things and spaces. The psychological value of the color is undisputed; its symbolism power of great importance. The painter knows the colors and knows how to bring them to life. Depending on the temperament and intuition the complexion will be gentle or powerful, broken or pure, colorful or colored, cool or warm. In any case, the colors will yield what the painter demands from them and needs in order to achieve the spiritualization of matter in his work.«7

In what follows Kornberger describes in his text the commission which was to create forty-seven watercolors of various plants of Voest-Alpine Steel complex. He describes the impression made on him by various plants, in particular the color effect created by the factory atmosphere: »The LD-steel plant was particularly impressive in this respect, because here the color penetrated me directly. It was free and filled the room up to the roof. It penetrated me and forced me into composition. Everywhere I looked, there was movement in the colors. Loud, screeching movement, triggered by man who, almost invisible, dominated and changed the scene. I wanted to depict the tension that resulted from this relationship, as it was only on this basis that I could imagine an industrial image.«

Kornberger experienced the working world above all as an observer. He penetrated the world of colours and allowed his impressions to run wild: »The fascination exerted by the events (such as the melting process of the oxygen in the converter or a tap), had me totally and completely in their power. A spectacle which in its impact, drama, beauty and divergence of colors can hardly be surpassed. The blue of the sky, which shined through an open window in the room, acted in its coolness acted as a counterpoint to the symphony of bright and warm colors that spread out from fiery red to distorted yellow forms.«

In an almost expressionist manner, Kornberger allowed the colorful atmosphere and moods penetrate him and expressed his personal impressions. He does not see the plants as a social gathering of people, of complicated operations, but only as a pictorial phenomenon. He is interested solely in the effect on the eye of the painter, and he distinguishes between the individual plants primarily through their external processes and their effect on detached observer. Thus Kornberger argues that Drahtfabrik (filaments factory) Ferlach in contrast to the Eisenwalzenwerke (iron mills) radiate quite a different, calmer atmosphere. Kornberger was concerned only with the question, what color scheme was appropriate for a given mood: »To do justice to the new situation, I had to use a very different concept for this picture, about the subjects with a turbulent atmosphere. I knew that for this subject the color has as much importance as the composition and for this I chose a cooler color scheme with sparingly applied accents and united these with the picture composition in such a way that a transformation of the material could take place. With the result, that the events of such kind in the painting expressed the same intensive experience as in reality.«

The artistic analysis of the industrial areas is not limited to the search for suitable color effects, but also subjects the form design and composition to the intended artistic effects and principles: »Here I had to free the colours to allow them a decorative as well as atmospheric visual effect. I let the rails and sleepers turn into ornament by an almost unfolded perspective and to realize the movement through the reciprocal relationship, where only colors and object came into view that follows almost inevitably from such a working over.«

The Walzwerke (rolling steel-mill) impressed Kornberger through its dynamic processes and by the unity of man and machine. Again, the color transformation of this impression stood at the foreground of his artistic reflections: »This method of operation had an enormous excitement and gave me an intense pictorial experience that carried by the powerful unity the eruptive movement of the working process - as is formed here by man and machine- exerted a lasting impression on me. I expressed this experience with a wide red-sounding scale, which dominates the painting.«

At the Schmiede und Hammerwerke (Smith and Hammer mills) Kornberger was fascinated in turn by the rapid succession of jerky movements, from which a strong spatial radiance penetrated artist's eyes: »The material conception of space led especially in the subject of Smith to a compression of matter. The harsh rhythm of smith hammers, transmitted through a defined color scheme to the entire image area, provided such a lively scene which le the quick, staccato working rhythm to linger over the active men and the machines.«

Kornberger's fellow painter Karl Benkovič expressed himself ungrudgingly over the cycle of the Industrial pictures of his colleague and saw in them not only »factory landscapes«, but rather downright »working landscapes«. According to Benkovič work and landscape merged here into a successful unity and highlighted the heroic efforts of the factory workers: »And this unity is most evident in the design motifs from the large factory buildings, where the images of the ceilings like a mighty firmament span over this world of workers, creation and the machines. The color scheme is tuned to a strong warm and bright colored and corresponds well to the positive (not to say heroic) aspects of these subjects.«8

Textbilder - Maschine mit Wolke, WVZ-Nr. 307In the spring of 1979, the campaign entitled »Künstler malen und zeichnen in Betrieben (Artist's paint and draw in the factories)« was organized by the Zentralsparkasse und Kommerzbank of Vienna as part of their art promotion activities together with Kulturamt der Stadt Wien (Ministry of Culture of the City of Vienna). Twelve Viennese artists where invited to work in city factories in exchange for remuneration and on-site acceptance of a graphic work. For one week these artists were artistically engaged as artist in the central workshops of the Wiener Verkehrsbetriebe (Vienna transport company), on a subway construction site in the Municipality of Vienna, in a production facility of the Mobil Oil Austria, in the Blockpower plant in Simmering, and the Paukerwerk of Simmering-Graz-Pauker AG and Data Center of the Zentralsparkasse und Kommerzbank of Vienna. The aim of the campaign was, »as much to reduce the distance between the working people and art, as reducing the distance between the artist and the world of work«, as formulated by the then mayor of Vienna Helmut Zilk.9 According to the catalogue, this project was initiated in order to »Highlight this change in the situation. Art does not belong to the world of work solely as contrast or complement, it also triggers for a confrontation and communication - a sensible approach to bridging distance and to reduce mutual skepticism.«10

Textbilder -  U-Bahn Bau, 1979 (WVZ-Nr. 304)Besides Alfred Kornberger (see figure right above), Georg Eisler, Elisabeth Ernst, Hans Escher, Franz Giesel, Kurt Ingerl, Peter Kodera, Fritz Martinz, Flore Pakosta, Walter Rischanek, Peter Singer and Willi Schopf were invited to participate. The works that emerged from the »mutually fruitful encounter between art and work«11, were exhibited in the main building of the Zentralsparkasse in the 3rd Viennese district and in the factories of the Simmering-Graz-Pauker AG. Kornberger created his artistic contribution at Simmering-Graz-Pauker AG, plant Floridsdorf.
There are powerful wagons displayed in the center of this depiction in the painting (see figure left) that are produced in this plant. The smooth texture of the painting, the precise contours of the shadow and motifs, their bluish, cool palette reflect masterfully the metallic surface of the wagons.

 

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Commissions and purchases

There is a collection of Alfred Korberger's own recordings of all the commissions and purchases from 1955-1993.12 Kornberger created folders in which each new work with a photo, and not rarely, even the date of the execution are documented. He also noted down the names of the seller and purchaser of his works. These commissions also include those that are relevant to Kornberger's activities as a graphic artist. The principal customers for his graphic works were the companies Simmering-Graz-Pauker AG in Vienna and Rigips (plaster) Ges.m.b.H in Bad Aussee. As to acquisitions Kornberger had as an important customer Pensionsversicherungsanstalt der Arbeiter (Pension insurance agency for workers). The Institute acquired many works for furnishing of the Rehabilitation home. Repeated acquisitions were also made by the Zentralsparkasse und Kommerzbank of Vienna, the Vienna Insurance Group and last but not least, the Bezirksmuseum Wien-Währing, with which Kornberger was closely associated.

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Works owned by:

Albertina Vienna
Artothek des Bundes
Bank Austria (
former Zentralsparkasse und Kommerzialbank Wien)
BAWAG Foundation, Vienna
Belvedere Vienna
Bezirksmuseum Wien-Währing
Graphic Cabinet of the Academy in Zagreb
Kulturamt der Stadt Graz
New Gallery of modern art, Skopje
Niederösterreichisches Landesmuseum St. Pölten
Oesterreichische Alpine-Montangesellschaft
Österreichische Nationalbank, Vienna
Pensionsversicherungsanstalt der Arbeiter
Sammlungen der Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien - MUSA
Siemens (former Simmering-Graz-Pauker-AG)
Collection of Dr. Rudolf Leopold
Wiener Städtische Bestattung
Wiener Städische Versicherung AG, Vienna Insurance Group
as well as numerous national and international private collections

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Graphic work cycles

Book illustrations for E. T. A. Hoffmann's »Die Elexiere des Teufels«, 30 original lithographies, hand coloured, Vienna 1955
Alfred Kornberger, »Zeus«, Folder with 12 coloured lithographies, Vienna, edition schönwälder 1985
Alfred Kornberger, »Apokalypse«, Folder with 10 hand coloured seriographies, Vienna 1992

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1 Eduard Arnold, »Alfred Kornberger zum 65. Geburtstag«, in: Vernissage. Magazin für aktuelles Ausstellungsgeschehen , 18. Jg., Nr.6, July/August 1998, p. 17-18.
2 Romana Schuler (Ed.), Karl Anton Fleck. Anthropologische Maschine, Vienna, Leopold Museum 2005, Verlag Bibliothek der Provinz, p. 223.
3 Irene Nierhaus, Kunst-am-Bau im Wiener kommunalen Wohnbau der fünfziger Jahre, Vienna-Cologne-Weimar 1993, p. 245.
4 Karl Benkovič, Zur Ausstellung »Aquarelle aus dem Eisenhüttenwesen von Alfred Kornberger«, in: Zeitschrift der Österreichischen Hochschülerschaft. Montanistische Hochschule Leoben. winter semester 1970/71, p. 24.
5 hf., »Feuerglut am Arbeitsplatz«, in: Wahrheit, June 7, 1970; w.,»Aquarelle und Lithographien werden in der Mont. Hochschule ausgestellt«, in: Obersteirische Volkszeitung, June 13, 1970.
6 Alfred Kornberger, »Die Industrie - Gegenstand künstlerischer Auseinandersetzung (Aquarelle aus dem Eisenhüttenwesen)«, in: Zeitschrift der Österreichischen Hochschülerschaft. Montanistische Hochschule Leoben, winter semester 1970/71, p. 25-30.
7 Ibid., p. 25.
8 Karl Benkovič, Zur Ausstellung »Aquarelle aus dem Eisenhüttenwesen von Alfred Kornberger«, in: Zeitschrift der Österreichischen Hochschülerschaft. Montanistische Hochschule Leoben. winter semester 1970/71, p. 24.
9 Harald Sterk, »Neue Akzente, neue Aktionen«, in: Wien aktuell, Nr. 12, December 1979, p. 6.
10 »Arbeitswelt und Kunst. Ergebnisse der Aktion ›Künstler malen und zeichnen in Betrieben‹«, Exh. Cat. Vienna, Zentralsparkasse und Kommerzbank, Vienna 1979.
11 Harald Sterk, »Neue Akzente, neue Aktionen«, in: Wien aktuell, Nr. 12, December 1979, p. 6.
12 Cf. Franz Smola, Alfred Kornberger (1933 - 2002). Der Akt als Innovation (The nude as innovation), Vienna 2002, p. 443-447.

 

from Franz Smola, »Alfred Kornberger (1933-2002). Der Akt als Innovation (The nude as innovation)«, Vienna 2007.