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Maria Lassnig dies, aged 94

Austrian artist Maria Lassnig whose expressionist paintings and self-portraits were exhibited around the world has died yesterday in a hospital Vienna, aged 94.

Described as Austria's 'Grand Dame' of painting, Lassnig's art often had dark undertones, featuring twisted figures and abstract themes, many of which were self-portraits. In her later years her artwork continued to look into darker emotional and mental themes, with one painting depicting the artist with a gun pointing to her head and a second to the viewer of the painting. It is entitled 'You or Me'.

Born in Carinthia in 1919, Lassnig studied in Vienna until after the Second World War, after which she discovered abstract expressionism and was part of a group of Austrian artists influenced by this style including Arnulf Rainer and Ernst Fuchs. She then later travelled and worked in Paris and New York before returning to settle in Austria again in the 1980s.

Throughout this time she stayed committed to abstract expressionist and her theme of 'body awareness' that began in the late 1940s, despite sometimes facing opposition and dislike of her style from those around her.

"They wouldn’t even show my work, said it was trash. And my upstairs neighbour in the loft said to me: you just can’t paint," she said about the reception of New York to her paintings when she first moved there.

Over the years however, her paintings have been exhibited in some of the world's major art galleries including the Serpentine in London and New York's Museum of Modern Art, where there is currently an exhibit of her self-portraits on show.

A museum in Graz that had close contact with Lassnig confirmed the death with Austrian media yesterday. She is not survived by anyone.

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