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Fergus McCaffrey
Untitled, 1971
Pencil, colored pencil on handmade paper
32 x 24 1/4 x 1/4 in. (framed)
24 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 1/16 in.


The Estate of Birgit Jürgenssen

Born and educated in Vienna, Jürgenssen died prematurely at the age of fifty-four. Her artwork received scant attention during her lifetime; however, recent monographs by Gabriele Schor and Abigail Solomon-Godeau have begun to spread awareness of the depth and breadth of Jürgenssen’s artistic achievement.

Growing up in the era of über-expressionist Viennese Actionism and coming of age in a conservative, male-dominated Viennese art world, Jürgenssen developed an extraordinarily rich private studio practice that encompassed drawing, performance, photography, and sculpture. Jürgenssen’s drawings from the late 1960s reach into psychedelic pop culture, with fluffy, Lorax-like trees and Yellow Submarine–style cartoon characters rendered in exquisite detail and glorious color. In the early 1970s, she developed a surrealist trajectory that provoked further dreamlike vistas. Examples include a fried egg in a frying pan glowing through a bedroom window in place of the moon (Untitled, 1973); anthropomorphic airplanes circling around and adhering to flypaper (Flypaper, 1974); and a hybrid bird/jetliner soaring above the grave of a locomotive engine, pursued by a horse, ostrich, and automobile (Locomotive, 1973).

Issues of gender are apparent in Jürgenssen’s photographic works, sculptures, and drawings from every period. The body is implicated, with hair a particular focus in works such as Mrs. Churchill (1976), which features Winston Churchill’s victory salute framing a triangle of pubic hair. Elsewhere, mice act as ciphers to replace bicep muscles, occupy beds, and integrate themselves into books. Her shoe works demonstrate a potential for seduction and sadism. The self-portraits often represent hybrid human forms, showing the female body adapted and armored, debunking gender codes and roles.

Jürgenssen studied at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, in 1968–71. A solo exhibition of her drawings took place at Graphische Sammlung, Albertina, Vienna, in 1978. Between 1980 and 1997, she lectured in Vienna at the University of Applied Arts and then the Academy of Fine Arts. Understanding of Jürgenssen’s work has been nurtured by Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna, since 1981. The artist’s 2018–2020 traveling retrospective Birgit Jürgenssen. I Am. has exhibited at the Weserburg Museum of Art, Bremen Germany (2020); LOUISIANA Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2019); GAMeC, Bergamo Italy (2019); and the Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany (2018).