Friedensreich Hundertwasser immigrated to New Zealand in 1974 after visiting the country a year before. A survivor of the Holocaust he became one of the most well loved artists of his generation living and working in New Zealand until his death in 2000.
Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser was born in 1928 Vienna as Friedrich Stowasser. He became one of the best-known contemporary Austrian artists, although controversial by the end of the 20th century. He and his Jewish mother survived the Holocaust in Austria, posing as Christians, a ruse made easier by his father being Catholic. To remain inconspicuous Hundertwasser even joined the Hitler Youth movement. Nevertheless, in 1943 69 members of his mother’s family were arrested and killed.
Hundertwasser’s adopted name literally translated means “Peace-Kingdom Hundred-Water (“sto” = 100). He worked in the fields of architecture and applied art, creating flags (he was the designer of New Zealand’s Koru flag), clothing, stamps, and coins. The common themes in his work utilised bright colours, organic forms, a reconciliation of humans with nature, and a strong individualism which included the rejection of straight lines.
Hundertwasser’s first visit to New Zealand was in 1973; in the following year he applied for and received permanent residency; and in 1987 he became a naturalised New Zealander. He purchased a 455 hectare dairy farm in the Kaurinui Valley, Bay of Islands, built an environmentally friendly home on it and planted some 60,000 native trees, thriving in the greenness of his surroundings. After his death, a Hundertwasser Centre was established in Kawakawa and his famous public toilets became a popular tourist destination.
Image header above: Friedensreich Hundertwasser by Hannes Grobe (own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons / Hundertwasser_nz_1998_hg.jpg
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