• German
  • English
 

Man and nature take centre stage

Alfons Walde

2018 IS A YEAR DEDICATED TO REMEMBERING GUSTAV KLIMT, EGON SCHIELE AND KOLO MOSER, THREE OF AUSTRIA’S GREATEST PAINTERS. A YEAR WHICH, MAYBE, COULD ALSO MAKE SPACE FOR ALFONS WALDE, WHO DIED 60 YEARS AGO IN KITZBÜHEL.

Wal­de moved to Vien­na to stu­dy archi­tec­tu­re in 1910 and exhi­bi­ted his pain­tings in the Seces­si­on Buil­ding in 1913: he was a con­tem­pora­ry artist of the move­ment, rather than a stu­dent. Moving in the Vien­nese art sce­ne, pas­sing bet­ween Art Nou­veau and the inci­pi­ent Expres­sio­nism, allo­wed him to make signi­fi­cant encoun­ters: Gus­tav Klimt shaped him with the colour­ful lan­guage of flo­ral deco­ra­ti­ons. His friendship with Egon Schie­le ope­ned his eyes to pain­ting styles which were expres­si­ve and at the same time gra­phi­cal­ly impres­si­ve. And final­ly, Kolo­man Moser’s land­s­capes shaped Walde’s com­po­si­ti­ons of natu­re with land­s­capes bathed in light. The­se expe­ri­en­ces are at the heart of his own style and allo­wed him to find his inner voice when choo­sing his sub­jects, pain­ting styles, and colour which he deve­lo­ped in Kitz­bü­hel, as the capi­tal didn’t offer the right envi­ron­ment for his art!

His work was influ­en­ced by win­ter and sport, and we have to thank him if tho­se the­mes beca­me com­mon­place in Aus­tri­an pain­ting. In 1913 he pain­ted small, often spon­ta­ne­ous sket­ches of ever­y­day life: ‘Gas­s­l­ren­nen’ (sledge races), ath­le­tes ski­ing, ladies on the ski slo­pe, socie­ty ming­ling during an Après-Ski as well as natu­ral, inti­ma­te moments. The land­s­cape bet­ween the Hah­nen­kamm, the Wil­der Kai­ser and the Joch­berg moun­tains beca­me an artis­ti­cal­ly sti­mu­la­ting refu­ge for Alfons Wal­de. His signa­tu­re trait is epi­to­mi­sed by soft sno­wy are­as in stark con­trast to rocky, rug­ged moun­tain sce­ne­ries, as can be seen in the ‘Bau­ern­hof am Wil­den Kai­ser’. His main con­cern was to unite man, archi­tec­tu­re and natu­re into a har­mo­nious who­le, and he suc­cee­ded in doing so in ‘Win­ter in Kitz­bü­hel’. In con­trast, he pain­ted ‘Stadt im Tau­schnee’ in an almost mono­chro­me view, remi­nis­cent of Schiele’s city pain­tings, like a por­trait of his home­town. Howe­ver, he also lets peop­le and their cheer­ful mien come to life in ‘Bau­ern­sonn­tag’ and ‘Begeg­nung’.

His main the­mes inclu­de a seri­es of idyl­lic still lives, flower arran­ge­ments and sub­jects from reli­gious, ever­y­day life and spor­ting events which have spread world­wi­de. In addi­ti­on, one sen­ses his pre­fe­rence for the fema­le nude, pain­ted using a sub­t­le expres­si­vi­ty and with refi­ned colours. Inti­ma­cy and sen­sua­li­ty come to the fore in the­mes such as ‘Ero­tik’. In the 1930s, his palet­te of pas­tel colours will domi­na­te the­mes such as ‘Berg­wei­ler’ or ‘Alpen­so­m­mer’, but the­mes such as ‘Almen im Schnee’ or ‘Auf­stieg der Ski­fah­rer’ are also in demand.

As an archi­tect, he shaped his home­town, Kitz­bü­hel: in 1926/27 he built the val­ley and ‘moun­tain sta­ti­on of the Hah­nen­kamm­bahn’, which would later inclu­de a hotel, and in 1929 he built a home up in the moun­tains which would beco­me his ‘ate­lier’ for his nudes, sur­roun­ded by natu­re and away from the public eye. He also plan­ned vil­las and com­mer­cial buil­dings. His main the­mes depict Tyrol in all its facets: untouched natu­re set against the back­drop of a lar­ge ‘win­ter land­s­cape’ as a monu­men­tal idyll or the ‘Aura­cher Kirchl’, a small cha­pel, beco­me striking sym­bols of an alpi­ne Tyrol.

Michael Walde-Berger talks about his grandfather

I’ve often been asked at several ver­nis­sa­ges, pre­sen­ta­ti­ons, etc.: aren’t you proud to have such a gre­at grand­f­a­ther? And I always find it dif­fi­cult to ans­wer this ques­ti­on, becau­se one can only be proud of things one has worked out and achie­ved per­so­nal­ly. As an actor I enjoy small vic­to­ries and a suc­cess that can­not be com­pa­red to that of Alfons Wal­de, but I am extre­me­ly hap­py for the suc­cess he had in the deca­des after his death which, unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, he never expe­ri­en­ced. I would rather speak of a melan­cho­lic joy, as well as pri­de that comes from being a clo­se rela­ti­ve and the trus­tee of part of his oeuvre.

I’ve got to con­fess that in the ear­ly years of my work with my grandfather’s pain­tings, I did so out of a sen­se of debt, as though I owed him some­thing: after all, he’d crea­ted so much ide­al and mate­ri­al hap­pi­ness for our fami­ly. He was a hard-working man: accord­ing to my mother’s sto­ries, he worked all night long aided by a light­bulb: not only did he mana­ge to crea­te the­se won­der­ful land­s­capes but, moti­va­ted by his strong sen­se of the aes­the­tic, he also gave space to the ero­tic petals we see among his work.

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, I was never lucky enough to meet him per­so­nal­ly, and yet I belie­ve that I know under­stand some­thing of his mind and soul by rea­ding many of the docu­ments belon­ging to his esta­te. The work acqui­red a deeply human com­po­nent which can be com­pa­red with the dis­co­very of his cha­rac­ter and his soul, sway­ing bet­ween crea­ti­on, suc­cess and sin­ce­ri­ty. This is a trait I can empa­thise with as an actor. His choice of expres­si­ons and lan­guage are cha­rac­te­ris­tic of a Tyro­lean who ‘does­n’t min­ce his words’, i.e. says what he thinks and never loses his sen­se of humour; that is, unless he dis­co­vers an injus­ti­ce and beco­mes angry: the fun is over, even with Alfons. Throughout his life, he always stood his ground when it came to his poli­ti­cal con­vic­tions, even in the Nazi era, which almost cost him his free­dom, as he was near­ly sent to the Dach­au con­cen­tra­ti­on camp.

Through many let­ters, for examp­le to friends and pas­sio­na­te, ero­tic wri­tings sent to his lovers, I now under­stand what made him such a hard-working pain­ter. He repeats, ‘my wife cos­ts me so much money, I have to work.’ But ulti­mate­ly, I think, he was dri­ven more by the urge to crea­te than making money. I spon­ta­ne­ous­ly remem­ber one of the many let­ters of the 1950s to his lover Lot­te von Min­kus: he implo­red to tell him about her ero­tic adven­tures when she was not visi­t­ing him becau­se he nee­ded tho­se fan­ta­sies for the hap­pi­ness of his soul and as a way to boost his bat­te­ries to pro­du­ce art.

He was torn bet­ween art and pas­si­on. Both were not ques­tio­ned in their exis­tence, but nevertheless their natu­re was care­ful­ly exami­ned. Both for­ces were tho­rough­ly natu­ral and sin­ce­re, as was he as a human being. In sum­ma­ry, I can say that he would pro­bab­ly have been my best friend if I had been allo­wed to meet and ‘expe­ri­ence’ him. Inde­ed, I may not find much reso­nance in his figu­re as a grand­f­a­ther, but more as a good friend.’

Authors of this article 

MICHAEL WALDE-BERGER and GERT AMMANN

Share Post
Written by

Das Kunstmagazin, das mehr Zeit zum Lesen und mehr Raum zum Schauen beansprucht: ein Gegentrend zu vielen Megatrends. Geeignet für Kunstliebhaber, die tiefer gehen möchten und bereit sind, inspiriert zu werden. Intellektuell anspruchsvolle Inhalte, innovatives Layout und elegantes Design auf höchstem Qualitätsstandard.

Shopping Cart
There are no products in the cart!
Continue Shopping
0