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Michael Asbury

Franz Weissmann biography

Born in Knittelfeld, Austria, Franz Weissmann arrived in Brazil in 1924. In 1939 he began - but did not finish - the painting course at the academically inclined Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro, opting instead to spend two years of study under Polish sculptor August Zamoyski (who, like Weissman's own family, was in exile in Brazil due to the Nazi threat). He claims nevertheless to be a self-taught constructivist artist.

In 1944 Weissmann was invited by Guignard to teach and contribute to the establishment of the first fine art school in the city of Belo Horizonte. He would remain in the city until 1956. The project for the school had been the idea of the then mayor Juscelino Kubitschek (who as president of the republic later became political instigator of the new capital Brasilia). The art school in Belo Horizonte was initially a precarious affair, located in an unfinished building. Weissmann set up a studio and workshop in the basement, which was susceptible to frequent flooding. Amongst his students were: Amilcar de Castro, Farnese de Andrade and Mary Vieira.

Around 1950 he became interested in abstraction and in 1951 he took part of the first São Paulo Biennial; the following year joined the Rio de Janeiro-based Frente group. In 1954 he received the first prize for sculpture at the São Paulo Modern Art Salon. The following year he received the second prize for sculpture at the São Paulo Bienal. In 1956 he took part of the National Exhibition of Concrete Art in São Paulo, which travelled to Rio the following year. In 1957 he received the prize for 'best national sculptor' at the São Paulo Bienal.

In 1958 he received the foreign travel prize at the Modern Art Salon in Rio de Janeiro. Before travelling to Europe, Japan and India, Weissmann was amongst the signatories of the Neoconcrete manifesto (together with Amilcar de Castro, Ferreira Gullar, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Reynaldo Jardim and Théon Spanudis) in March 1959. In 1960 he participated in the International Concrete Art exhibition in Zurich (organised by Max Bill) and the Second Neoconcrete Art Exhibition at the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio.

Weissmann lived in Paris during 1962, Rome from 1963, and Madrid in 1965. He returened to Rio in 1965 and continued to make frequent appearances at both the São Paulo and Venice Biennales. He received various prizes and held many solo exhibitions, including two retrospectives (1981, Institute of Brazilian Architects; 1994, Galeria AM).

He died in Rio de Janeiro in 2005.

Michael Asbury, 2006

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