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“TO DIVE DEEP INTO OIL COLOUR AS A PAINTER”.

HERBERT DANLER (1928 – 2011)

THE WORKS OF PAINTER, GRAPHIC ARTIST AND ENGRAVER HERBERT DANLER, BORN IN THE STUABAITAL VALLEY, HAVE BEEN HELD IN HIGH ESTEEM AFTER HIS DEATH, AS SEEN FOR EXAMPLE AT THE LAST EXHIBITION IN THE TONI KNAPP HAUS IN SCHWAZ; THIS ALONE SPEAKS OF THE OUTSTANDING QUALITY OF HIS ART, WHICH IN THE MEANTIME HAS REACHED THE INDIVISIBLE STATUS OF AN INSTITUTION IN THE MODERN CLASSIC SCENE IN TYROL.

Herbert Danler, after learning the trade of painting following his final secondary exams in Innsbruck and earning his first salary working in the family business in Fulpmes, decided to move to Vienna in 1952 to start studying fine arts under the guidance of none other than Professor Herbert Boeckl at the Academy. Those were bleak times of privation he shared with many of his Tyrolean colleagues but, more than anything else, those years of studies were characterised by his good approach to his profession, his voice filled with awe when mentioning that period during later recollections. Herbert Danler couldn’t escape the influence of his professor, just like many other of his artist brethren; indeed, Boeckl could, more than anyone else, define and characterise new landscapes, thus bringing him closer to his students. Trained in the academic tradition, he starts working as a freelance artist upon returning to Tyrol in 1957 as well as becoming a teacher and art tutor in Landeck and Zams. This is where he first made his name as painter, lithographer and engraver, taking centre stage in Tyrol’s cultural landscape. Herbert Danler was a loved, considerate teacher, the students’ best friend and sponsor – important artists such as Elmar Peintner, Chryseldis Hofer-Mitterer, and many more were some of his most successful students – and yet he still managed to dedicate enough time to develop his painting, letting it blossom into an independent expression. The valley dweller shared numerous artistic ideas with the art of Herbert Boeckl as well as points of view with the art of Tyrolean painter Hans Weber-Tyrol.

Both succeed in walking down a loquacious path, rich in narrative elements, thanks to their images tailored and focused on ‘their world’. Both were known to be outstanding painters and graphic artists, versed in the most different techniques such as watercolour, oil, and pastel painting, adding the most divers sketches and in doing so continued being open; their love for landscapes inspired Herbert Danler to achieve outstanding artistic performance.  The spiritual sense of new beginnings ensconces itself in Herbert Danler’s works as a leitmotif throughout his creative period. It‘s characterised by the forceful urge to parse the themes he glimpsed in reality in the guise of valid shapes and values perceived during specific fleeting moments and to create new divisions of space in the paintings with those new building blocks. This sensibility allows him, more than any other artist, to paint an ‘interior image’, a removed representation of a typical landscape, which eschews excessive modernism, yet is contemporary and finds its outlet in playing with forms and colours.

Danler’s choice of themes – he often focused on a snapshot of a landscape – was constantly informed by knowing the locals or the people living in surrounding areas. He wasn’t shy, and always talked with people. The history and destiny of the inhabitants roaming his portraits always interested and inspired him; however, this interest of his didn’t inspire him to give more attention to depicting the human figure.

Man as a moulder of the landscape, as protector of secrets and stories, who hides the old ruins of nature, is ignored; yet the artist succeeds in keeping the core of the message at the heart of his work. His often archaic architecture is a repository for a wealth of history. Interpretation and creativity are given space to frolic around freely in his windows, portals, archways, and broken walls, as he compares them to people’s eyes, ears, noses, and mouths, and represents gorges, avalanches, and waterfalls as the playful side of nature. Herbert Danler, despite taking a step back from using nature as a role model, delivers an illusion which is as close as possible to three-dimensionality as it gets thanks to his use of strong colours which often do not reflect nature as well as the application of a powerful, white pastel layer. A depth which is, however, misleading. His artistic intentions were, on the contrary, always focused on reflecting a perceived reality filtered through the lenses of a fleeting, spontaneous moment, of emotion, and the transient idea perceived in the moment of creation.

Platzgernun / Vinschgau - 1990 - Öl auf Leinwand - 60 x 100 cm
St. Kathrein / Navis - 19778 - Öl auf Leinwand - 70 x 70 cm

You could also see landscape artist Danler as an outstanding portrait painter, which hardly comes as a surprise in the eyes of art experts., Indeed, finding parallels between the two genre is surprisingly easy. According to the interpretation of some experts, painting a landscape is similar to painting a person. His rare examples of still nature complement the pallet of depicted subjects together with open space projects. The most impressive appearance of Danler as lithographer and engraver is closely connected to the success of the painter. He was capable of creating plasticity and depth on the flat lithographs – similar to the painting of his castle, farms, chapels, and churches and much more – and we encounter a mastery in his etching, the ‘needle technique’, as we do in his pencil sketches, which mercilessly depicts the archaic conditions of life as a daily, hard reality.

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Studium der Kunstgeschichte in Innsbruck. Philosophische Dissertation über die Geschichte der Tiroler Glasmalerei- und Mosaikanstalt und deren Mosaike im Stadtgebiet von Innsbruck. Kurzzeitige Mitarbeit am Tiroler Kunstkataster. Als Ausstellungskuratorin und Autorin von Kunstmonografien und zahlreichen kunstpublizistischen Beiträgen u.a. für Ausstellungskataloge tätig.

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