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Sketches of a past that has remained in the shadows

Organisational Units
Location Description
Flagpoles Schillerplatz

With these three flags we commemorate the pioneer women of art studies at the Academy and give them a place in our collective memory. The exhibition was conceived by Ingrid Schacherl, Coordination Office for the Advancement of Women I Gender Studies I Diversity, and the artistic design by Vitória Monteiro(1).

The Coordination Office for the Advancement of Women I Gender Studies I Diversity has prepared an action at Schillerplatz for the conclusion of the event series 100 Years - She* Came to Stay . Three flags will be hoisted. Two flags fly as a symbol for the unwritten stories of the first academically trained female artists at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. One flag commemorates the first female professor, Gerda Matejka-Felden.

Research in the Academy's archives , conducted in collaboration with Eva Schober and Ulrike Hirhager, shows us that there are few traces of the artistic works of the first women. Except for enrollment data, not much could be found on the first female students at the Academy. Regarding the first female professor, who was appointed in 1947, there is a file on her disciplinary proceedings.

We have discovered a self-portrait of Gerda Matejka-Felden that was made available to us by Wolfgang Pollack(2). The hint came from Agnes Peschta, who dealt in detail with the disciplinary proceedings surrounding Gerda Matejka-Felden in her diploma thesis at the Academy's Institute for Education in the Arts(3).

Outside the Academy we found a photo of Hanna Gärtner in her studio, surrounded by her sculptures. The official source states that the photographer is unknown, but everything indicates, and here we also willingly speculate, that this portrait was a self-portrait. We discovered it in the archives of the Wien Museum through the tip of Sabine Plakolm (Vienna University of Technology) and Ursula Gass (Wien Museum). Hannah Gärtner was a recognized sculptor until she emigrated to the USA in 1938.

We have not found any self-portraits or images of the artists for any of the other women. It needs further research in more archives to expand this incomplete picture.

Therefore we decided to make a symbolic flag in the form of a collective remembrance: On it are the names of the first fourteen female students who, in their own unique way, dared to begin studying art at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1920/21. They wanted to overcome the resistance and prejudices that existed against female artists until then and to study art on an equal footing with their male colleagues. Herewith we celebrate their perseverance.

(1) Vitória Monteiro is a student at the Academy currently focusing on decolonial archival practices and queer feminist narrative forms.
(2) Wolfgang Pollak administers the estate of Gerda Matejka-Felden.
(3) Peschta, Agnes: Das Disziplinarverfahren der Gerda Matejka-Felden , 1949-1951 Lücken in Nachlass und Archiv: Spurensuche, Diskursanalyse und geschichtsvermittelnder Walk . Diplomarbeit Akademie der bildenden Künste 2017