Glasmalerei Stift Schlierbach - Margret Bilger

Margret Bilger

Graz 12.08.1904 –
Schärding 24.07.1971

Live and work

Margret Bilger, renowned for her woodcuts and glass paintings, is an outstanding artist of the last century. In her early years as an artist, she was known for her woodcuts, which were a modification of the expressionistic xylographic tradition, thus being one of only few women of her time leaving a distinctive print-graphic work. Later on, she found her vocation in glass painting, creating windows for many houses of worship in Austria, in several European countries, even in the Middle East and in Asia, as well as in the USA.

Her numerous stays at the Schlierbach Monastery were particularly creative and fruitful in the life of Margret Bilger. She developed a deep friendship with Father Petrus who was in charge of the glassworks studio. The bucolic surroundings of Schlierbach were her artistic inspiration and sanctuary. She participated in several competitions and exhibitions and earned many awards.

In the 1950s, Margret Bilger reached the peak of her worldwide recognition.
In the 1960s, she created textile works, reverse glass paintings, watercolor paintings and drawings.

Margret Bilger had a great influence on the development of stained glass, and particularly her work created in Schlierbach has worldwide recognition.

Glasmalerei Stift Schlierbach - Bilger


On August 12th, Margareta Katharina Anna Bilger is born in Graz. Her father, Ferdinand Bilger (1875-1949), is a historian and university professor, her mother Margit (1874-1933) is a daughter of the Swiss-born lithographer August Matthey-Guenet, who had founded an art print studio in Graz together with his brother Ernst. She has two siblings, Ferdinand (1903-1961), a chemist and painter, Irmtraut (1910-1999), a tapestry artist.

The Bilger family lives in Heidelberg. Margret’s father is working on a German law dictionary. Together with the children, he converts to the Protestant faith of his wife.

Back in Graz, Grete attends the Protestant primary school. Father Bilger inherits the house Leoprechting 10 in Taufkirchen an der Pram, Upper Austria from his mother Anna, nee Hoerandtner.

She attends Public school in Graz and has a great affection for her governess, Miss Else Becht.

Moderately successful, she attends Grammar school in Graz.

Myocardial disease, mononucleosis; she leaves Grammar school in April and goes to Taufkirchen for recovery. In autumn, she enters the College of Arts & Crafts in Graz.

Enthusiastic participation at the „Wandervogel“, a scout and hiking group in Graz.

She wants to commit herself to be a deaconess. Her parents, being aware of her artistic talent, dissuade her from doing so. In October, she starts studying graphic arts and design at the College of Arts & Crafts in Stuttgart, Germany in the classes of Prof. Schneidler and Prof. Sigrist (woodcuts and script).

She changes to the reformist College of Arts Albrecht Leo Merz in Stuttgart.

She returns home due to a crisis with fever and convulsions. From July to October, she is working as an assistant nurse with children suffering from bone tuberculosis at Stolzalpe, Styria. In October, she fails the qualifying examination at the College of Arts & Crafts in Vienna and attends as a guest student.

Regular student at the College of Arts & Crafts in Vienna in the classes for graphic arts and glass painting of the professors Loeffler and Klaus, and in the script class of Prof. Larisch. Starting from June 1926, she lives in Nussdorf in a home for difficult children of the Baroness Mayer. Her summers and autumns she spends in Taufkirchen.

In June, Margret Bilger earns the first Austrian State award for „the best student of the College of Arts & Crafts”.

After finishing her studies, she works as a sales assistant at the „Wiener Werkstaette“, hoping eventually to get a regular employment as a co-artist.

She applies for a position at the home for difficult girls in Hirtenberg, Styria and spends the autumn in Taufkirchen. The painter and close friend Walter Honeder visits her. They make plans for the future and she drops the idea of going to Hirtenberg.

She does her first landscape woodcut work „Hills in Upper Austria“. She gets an order for a series of woodcuts showing Austrian Saints for an edition of postcards.

She spends springtime in Vienna, July to November she stays in Taufkirchen. She works with several techniques: woodcuts, oil painting, reverse glass painting, embroidery and drawing.

She goes to Graz to care for her mother and works on a tapestry for the museum in Graz. She falls in love with the shoemaker Markus Kastl. Her mother dies on April 19th. Margret marries Markus Kastl on November 24th.

March 18th: She suffers from eclampsia and has a stillbirth. She has an exhibition at the Sezession in Graz.

She works on toys and children’s books. For the first time the Albertina in Vienna buys one of her works and she gets the silver medal of the city of Graz.

In autumn, she makes a journey to her friend from the College of Arts & Crafts, Elisabeth Scherfig-Karlinsky, to Denmark, on her way passing Kassel (Rembrandt) and Hamburg (Paula Modersohn-Becker and Marees), as well as Hannover and Heidelberg.

She breaks up with Markus Kastl. Her brother Ferdinand and her cousin Goldi Matthey volunteer for paramedics in the Spanish civil war. In autumn, she meets the musician Hubert Zanoskar in Taufkirchen. She tries to find a publisher for her children’s books.

In May and June, she and Else Meyerhofer visit the painter Fritz Pauli in Cavigliano, Tessin, Switzerland. On October 19th, she visits for the first time Alfred Kubin in Zwickledt, who from now on will hold his hand over her graphic production, which is developing rapidly now. In November, she goes to Vienna.

She stays in Vienna until March where she tries in vain to gain a professional foothold. Back in Taufkirchen, she decides to stay there for good and to work as an artist, without the safeguard of a regular job. On May 3rd, she tells Alfred Kubin about her decision.

She travels to Southern Tyrol and the Garda Lake and makes watercolors and portrait drawings.

Death of her brother-in-law Franz Blum in Russia. For her special xylographic method, she uses the name “Holzriss” (woodcut). In the catalog of the Munich exhibition, Kubin for the first time uses “Holzriss” officially.

The first of four Bilger exhibitions at Guenther Franke’s in Munich takes place in April. She changes her signature from Grete Bilger or G.B. to Margret Bilger or M.B. In June, she follows the footsteps of Alfred Kubin and Adalbert Stifter in the Bohemian Forest and in Oberplan, Czechia.

In Voecklabruck, Upper Austria, she meets the Bauhaus-painter Hans Breustedt. Her sister’s family moves into Margret’s house in Leoprechting, Taufkirchen.

She is under contract with the arts dealer Wolfgang Gurlitt.

In April her father dies. In May, an extensive exhibition of her woodcuts and watercolor painting takes place in the Albertina in Vienna.

First working stay at the Monastery Schlierbach for a glass window. The glass painting work starts getting the focus of her creative work.

She represents Austria at the Biennale in Venice. The first one of two exhibitions in Otto Kallir’s gallery St. Etienne takes place in New York.

She gets married to Hans Breustedt and he moves into her house in Taufkirchen.

She works on a window for a Christening Chapel in Liesing, Vienna, gets the gold medal for glass painting at the International Exhibition of Christian Arts in Vienna and participates at the Biennale in Sao Paulo.

She makes windows for Mattersburg, Burgenland, for Don Bosco in Vienna-Erdberg, for the Cathedral in Eisenstadt, for Bad Kreuzen, Upper Austria, for Duncan, Oklahoma, USA, etc.

She works on the monumental windows for Rohrbach/Lafnitz, Styria, for Salzburg-Hernau, for Lenzing, Upper Austria. In summer 1960, journey to Assisi, Italy. The Republic of Austria awards her the title „Professor“.

In the stained glass studio in Schlierbach, she makes seven windows for the parish church of Rainbach nr. Freistadt, Upper Austria, two windows for the parish church in St. Marienkirchen, Upper Austria as well as thirteen windows for the late Gothic Bernardi Chapel of the Holy Cross Monastery.

She spends more time in Taufkirchen. Apart from further stained glass windows, she mainly creates woven pictures, reverse glass paintings, watercolors, drawings and poems.

She converts to the roman-catholic confession.

She participates in the competition for stained glass windows for the Saint Steven Cathedral in Vienna and until June, she works on a window for a church in Duisburg-Hamborn, in Germany.

Margret Bilger dies on July 24th in Schärding/Inn and is buried in Taufkirchen an der Pram.

In the summer of 1975, the provincial government of Upper Austria initiates an exhibition at the Schlierbach Monastery in memory of this great artist.