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Ski Art: Helmut Zobl (1941- )



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Ski Art: Helmut Zobl (1941- )

By E. John B. Allen

It is unusual to choose a medalist as the subject for this art column. In this case, I’m not talking about an Olympic or World Championship medalist but about an artist who creates medals: Helmut Zobl, the Austrian who designed the 100-schilling coin, illustrated here, in commemoration of the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck.

Zobl was born in Schwarzach im Pongau, about an hour south of Salzburg, in 1941. His art training began in a Kunstgewerbeschule, the arts and crafts school in Steyr. From 1960 to 1965 he studied at the prestigious Akademie der Bildenden Künste—the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. In 1961, he took a summer course with Oskar Kokoschka, best known for his expressionistic portraits and avant-garde literature.

Zobl worked as an assistant in Ferdinand Welz’s medaling master school, a department of the Academy of Fine Arts. Welz was renowned for his many schilling coins and commemorative medals, and Zobl followed his master.

In 1970, Zobl started freelancing. The following year he joined the Vienna Secession group and about 20 years later he took membership in the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medaillenkunst, the German Society for Medal Art. In 1976, he designed the 100-schilling coin for the Olympics. At the time, a 120-schilling ticket, for example, would get you up to Axamer Lizum ski area, 10 kilometers out of Innsbruck, to watch the men’s giant slalom.

Besides the lettering around the edge of the coin—XII Olympische Winterspiele 1976 Innsbruck—the face depicts a skier going full speed. The stylized figure is made more powerful by the well-defined “squares,” which give the skier solidity as he powers down the hill. It presages Franz Klammer’s wild ride in the downhill on the Patscherkofel at Igls, when he beat Bernhard Russi by a third of a second to take the gold medal in those 1976 Winter Games. 


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