Emil Rizek Biography

Emil Rizek




Emil Rizek was born on May 31, 1901 in Vienna, Austria, the son of an electrical engineer. Although his father wanted him to become an engineer as well, young Rizek took private art instruction with Anton Hlavatschek and with Carl Fahringer, a professor from the Viennese academy. In the 1920s Rizek traveled to Italy, France, Germany and Holland where he was associated with the “School of the Hague”, a group of Dutch Impressionists. Finding himself unable to earn a living in Vienna, Rizek decided to travel the world in a search of adventure and artistic inspiration, recording his travels with paintings and drawings.

Rizek developed a personal style based in realism. Landscapes, city views and genre scenes of everyday work and life became his preferred subjects. His figurative works often portrayed laborers and working class people with whom he had a sense of comaraderie. He painted the marketplace of Bali and the ports of Northern Europe with equal flair.

On his first major world trip, between 1928 and 1931, Rizek traveled throughout Indonesia, building a large body of works that focused on the daily lives of people he met along the way. On a second trip, lasting from 1932 through 1935 he visited Canada, the United States, Japan and South Africa. In 1938 he returned to U.S. to teach painting for a year in Oakland, California.

Upon returning to Vienna, he joined The Vienna Artist’s Cooperative, and found himself increasingly under pressure to make his works conform to the subjects acceptable to Nazism. After being conscripted to war service Rizek wrote to a friend of the “devastating psychological effect of fascism on individual mental development.”

Rizek served in the Wehrmacht beginning in 1941 as a war artist and reporter, mainly in Finland. He was captured by the British army and spent ten months as a prisoner in Ostfriesland near the end of the war. Rizek, like all soldiers engaged in combat, suffered from PTSD and found it extremely difficult to return to painting immediately after the war. Later, as his creative energies returned, Rizek again traveled, making annual visits to Ostfriesia in northwest Germany where he created works that show a careful observation of light.

In 1963 the Artist’s Guild of Vienna awarded Rizek a special gold medal in recognition of his artistic achievements. However, his career and reputation suffered with many collectors due to his Wehrmacht service.

Emil Rizek died in Vienna in 1988.