Arnulf Rainer – women behind veils, acrobats and contortionists

Arnulf Rainer, like the many Viennese Actionism artists, started his artistic dealings with the human body by using his own.

In the photographic series Körpersprache (1967–1969) Rainer appears as model himself. In the following decade, subsequent to his actions, he avoids the actual physical body and moves his work towards a different media level. While photographing himself exceptionally in series like Face Farces and Body Poses, he later turns to found picture material when examining the idea of the femininity. He starts using photographs and reproductions from the 19th and 20th century. These show women from a wide range of social milieus of the 1920s and 1950s and own up to Rainer's preference for acrobats, respectively contortionists.

"The photos of the snake women touched me so much that I intervened by a way of various graphic corrections and tried to transform these unique performances into picture blossoms. This was the first deliberate step away from using myself towards using ladies as dummies for the overpaintings," Rainer explained in 1988.