Friedensreich Hundertwasser

The spiral is the symbol of life and death. The spiral lies at that very point where inanimate matter is transformed into life. It is my conviction that this has a religious basis, and the scientists confirm it too, that life must begin somewhere and that development from a lifeless matter has taken the form of a spiral.

I am convinced for example that the act of creation has the nature of a spiral.It is said in the Bible, in the beginning was only lifeless stone and then slowly life began. I believe the act breathing life into dead matter has the nature of a spiral. The spiral is constantly to be observed in lower and higher living organisms. The distant stars are disposed in spiral formations, and so are the molecules.

Our whole life proceeds in spirals.

Our earth describes a spiral course, that is we move in circles, but we never come back to the same point. The circle is not closed. We only reach the same level as the point where we began. It is characteristic of a spiral that it seems to be a circle but is not closed.

Of course there have at times been false conceptions of the spiral. It has been overstylised and become merely decorative. Or it has been so stylised as to be mere geometry.

A spiral can also be geometrically delineated with the spaces between its curves precisely measured, but it is a dead spiral, for everything which is sterile geometry is dead.

The spiral, as I see it, is a vegetative spiral, with swellings, where the lines become thicker and thinner, like the rings of a tree trunk, but with this difference, that they do not lie within one another, but form a coil. There is so much that can be said about spirals, other things, for example it is significant whether a spiral runs from the centre towards left or right.

The vicious spiral twists to the right like the Nazi swastika, the good one turns to the left. If a spiral rungs from the outer edge inwards against the clock, it is a good death; if it runs inwards and clockwise, it is a bad death. If it moves clockwise and outwards, it is a bad birth; if it moves outwards against the clock, it is a good birth.

It is interesting to note that in the northern hemisphere a whirlpool twists in a different direction than in the southern, even when water runs from a wash basin.

Crystals are not geometric formations as was once thought. Microscopic examination has shown that they build themselves up in coils, in fact like spiral staircases. When the surface of a crystal is viewed through a microscope, the steps of the staircase are clearly recognisable.

My spiral grows and dies like a plant - the lines of the spiral, like a meandering river, follow the laws of growth of a plant. I let it take its own course and go along with it. In this way I make no mistakes.


Written in Vienna in May / November 1974.

Published in:

Exhibition catalogue for Haus der Kunst, Munich 1975. Gruener Janura AG: Glarus/Switzerland, 1975, pp. 132-134 (German)

Catalogues of the World Travelling Museum Exhibition 1975–1987:
French edition:Paris, Luxembourg, Marseille, Cairo, 1975; Copenhagen, Dakar, 1976; Montreal, Brussels, 1978.
English edition: Tel Aviv, Reykjavik, 1976; Cape Town, Pretoria, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilia, Caracas, 1977; Mexico City, Toronto, 1978; Rome, Høvikodden, 1980; Helsinki, 1981; London, 1983.
German edition: Warsaw, 1976; Pfäffikon/Lake Zurich, 1979; Cologne, 1980; Vienna, Graz, 1981.
Japanese / English edition: Tokyo, 1977.

Österreicher, die der Welt gehören. (Austrians who belong to the world) edited by Mobil Oil Austria AG, Vienna. Brüder Rosenbaum Verlag: Vienna, 1979, p. 92 (German)

Schurian, Walter (ed.): Hundertwasser – Schöne Wege, Gedanken über Kunst und Leben. (Beautiful Paths – Thoughts on Art and Life) Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv): Munich, 1983, pp. 65-67 and ed. 2004 (Langen Müller Verlag, Munich), pp. 80-81 (German)

Schmied, Wieland (ed.): Hundertwasser 1928–2000, Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. II: Fürst, Andrea Christa: Catalogue Raisonné. Taschen: Cologne, 2002, pp. 27-28 (German and English)

Weber, C. Sylvia (ed.): La raccolta dei sogni, Exhibition catalogue for Art Forum Würth, Capena (Rome). Swiridoff: Künzelsau, 2008, pp. 48-53 (Italian, German and English)

Hundertwasser. Parkstone Press International: New York, 2008, p. 73

Hundertwasser. Traumfänger einer schöneren Welt, Exhibition catalogue for Kunstmuseum am Inselbahnhof, Lindau, 2019, pp. 20-21 (German)

Hundertwasser, Exhibition catalogue for nordiska akvarellmuseet, Skärhamn, 2021, p. 95 (excerpt, Swedish, English)