Thomas Muster, Art by Tom Lohner

What do a drunk driver in Miami, a Viennese furniture company, and the only world #1 never to have won a match at Wimbledon have in common? A few more rpm when the drunk driver struck, and Muster might be dead. A few more rpm on the ball as Muster sits in a chair, his reconstructed knee in a cast. Not Josef Hoffman’s famous Sitzmaschine armchair from 1905, with its nod to the machine age, but a chair simply built without arms so that Muster himself could become a machine, hitting ball after ball for hours on end. “I was motivated. I was on fire.” Became “The King of Clay,” Nadal before Nadal. A punishing lefty, a beast. His high bouncing topspin strokes wore down your shoulders while he went to work on taking out your legs. “You just have to listen to him out there. He sounds like a bulldog who’s chewing on your leg and will not stop chewing, no matter what.” (Pete Sampras).  In 1995, Muster became Austria’s only grand slam champion by winning the French Open. In 2008, Muster gave an hour-long talk at an Austrian tennis club while the famous Austrian cyberpunk post-apocalyptic painter, Tom Lohner, painted Muster’s portrait. After the hour’s up, the painting’s finished. It’s poster-like, celebratory, with a style akin to the early 20th century futurist painters whose credo was “a roaring motor car is more beautiful than the Nike of Samothrace.” Muster’s painted as if he’s half-machine, half-human, his body an amalgam of hard metallic surfaces and tennis technique. Maybe that’s what it takes to be grand-slam champion. And what about Wimbledon, its pastoral grass? After a few first-round losses, Muster skipped Wimbledon like so many other clay-court specialists of his era. Wimbledon’s grass was too slippery, too fast, too dangerous like cars, like the one that hit him, Muster hitting back by striking ball after ball in a Viennese chair, a story you should teach your kids.

Tom Lohner with Thomas Muster and his painting of Thomas Muster right after the painting has been completed.

The artist on painting Thomas Muster: Everyone says that Mr. Muster is a grumpy guy – I totally deny that. He was such fun and once we warmed up I asked him about his profession. If he was encouraged back in the days to play tennis etc – or if he had people doubting him etc. Luckily he was supported well by his parents – from then on of course it was hard work to get to where he was and still is now (as an Austrian tennis legend) but more fun was that he told me, that it might have been a wiser choice to become an artist such as me because being a sports star you only have a certain amount of years. He looked at me, patted my back and said: You can still do what you do in your late 90’s – even tied to a wheelchair if you feel like it. AND THAT – made my day! :-D

Artist Bio: The wildly inventive and popular Austrian artist, Tom Lohner, has the following credo: “Where passion pulls – follow. Never question this – it may be the only chance in your life to be truly alive.” Celebrated for paintings that combine a traditional medium of acrylic colors and futurist aesthetics, Tom Lohner is perhaps most famous for his Art of Hard Rock  series, where he transformed 13 iconic rock stars into animals, a show that toured throughout Europe in various Hard Rock Cafes. As a classical music lover, my favorite painting of his is Vivaldi.  Check it out! You can learn more about him and his work on Tom Lohner’s website.

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