ALFONS WALDE (1891-1958) Alm und Firn 23 3/4 x 21 1/4 in (60 x 54.2 cm) (Painted in 1933)

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Lot 5
ALFONS WALDE
(1891-1958)
Alm und Firn

Sold for US$ 537,812 inc. premium

Impressionist & Modern Art

17 Nov 2020, 17:00 EST

New York

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, CALIFORNIA
ALFONS WALDE (1891-1958)
Alm und Firn
signed 'A. Walde' (lower left); titled and dated 'Alm und Firn 1933' (on the artist's label on the reverse)
oil on board
23 3/4 x 21 1/4 in (60 x 54.2 cm)
Painted in 1933

Footnotes

  • The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Herr Michael Berger, grandson of the painter and manager of the Walde Estate. This work will be included in the forthcoming Alfons Walde catalogue raisonné being prepared under archive number D-LA-781.

    Provenance
    Oscar and Maria Salzer, Los Angeles.
    Gifted from the above to the present owner.

    Alm und Firn is a particularly interesting example of a distinct time and place in art history: the Tyrolean Alps in the early 1930s. The artist of the bucolic work, Alfons Walde, stands as an early frontrunner of Modernism, applying avant-garde styles and thought to depictions of his daily observations and life in the snowy Alps.

    Always engrossed in artistic endeavors, the young Alfons Walde was sent to Vienna to pursue architecture at the Technische Hochschule from 1910 to 1914. There, he honed his painting skills and became an intrinsic part of Vienna's famed artistic circles. In particular, the youth met a set of influential artists who would catapult his career to new heights: the Secessionists. These included individuals such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Ferdinand Hodler, who turned away from the academic art scene of the time and would greatly influence Walde's artistic style throughout his life. His closeness to this rebellious group led to his first exhibition in Innsbruck and then to a 1913 exhibition at the Vienna Secession building, which would solidify his place among the Secessionists as a pillar of pre-war Austrian art and design.

    After serving in the First World War, Walde moved back to his hometown of Kitzbühel but remained in close contact with his friends in the Vienna Secession, joining them in several international exhibitions and expanding their avant-garde theories and style in a distinctly Tyrolean (and, in turn, uniquely Walde) manner.

    Though many artists in the Secession would turn to the Alps as a subject for their works, Walde stood out in his own depictions of Tyrol. His deep personal connection to the region shone through in his oeuvre, the rugged landscape and its tenacious inhabitants were what the artist had known his entire life. He would become one of the first artists to take a vested interest in the world of alpine skiing, highlighting the new and exciting sport not only as a bastion of alpine tourism but also as a gorgeous marriage between the human body and the power of nature. His scenes became emblematic of the region: his graphic posters lined the walls of the ski-resort town of Kitzbühel, and still influence the town's logos today. A stark example of Modernist design, his unique works applied contemporary aesthetics and trends to an evolving artistic style, furthering the teachings of the Vienna Secession to an unprecedented extent.

    Painted in 1933, the present work expertly combines Walde's characteristic portrayal of the Tyrolean Alps with his love for the people and lifestyle of the region. Blanketed in snow, here the mountains stand both menacingly with their craggy rocks and invitingly with their soft, pillowy snow cover. The work may have been painted in the summer, or during a heat spell; the light is a burnt orange, and the snow in the distance somewhat sparse. Cows have stepped out of their winter refuge to graze in the lush emerald pastures, hailing a new season of activity and life. The work takes on a different perspective of the Tyrol to those usually presented by the artist – while Walde was most known for his portrayals of the region from a touristic angle, inviting skiers from European countries to tackle the friendly alpine slopes, this view is decidedly local. The details pictured here are emblematic of Walde's later works in the 1930s, when he had finally grown into his own style, leaving the cartoonish aspect of his commercial work in the 1920s behind.

    Alm und Firn also hails from a prestigious provenance. The work first entered the collection of the well-known art dealer and collector Oscar Salzer, an Austrian antiquarian, who fled the country for the United States just before the Anschluss in 1938. He continued his work and involvement in the art world in Los Angeles, where he dealt prominent works and expressed his love for the graphic arts through an expansive collection. He and his wife Maria donated most of their collection to the Los Angeles museum they helped found, the Fresno Art Museum – but the present lot was instead gifted to the current owner.
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