Already in his early years, between 1903
and 1910, as a student in secondary school in Innsbruck, Austria, Alfons
Walde (1891-1958) was proving his extraordinary talent as a painter (e.g,
Still Life, 1906). Several Walde watercolors, first shown in the Czichna
Art Gallery, in 1911 and 1912, document the advanced state of the young
artist's craft. At the time, Walde was particularly influenced by the late
impressionist work of Max von Esterle, which featured intricate colors.
Though Walde's watercolor technique already showed a characteristic impulsiveness
and intensity of color, his fellow artist guided him to a more subtle and
sensitive understanding of composition.
Selecting motifs from his immediate surroundings
in Kitzbühel, Austria, as well as nearby landscapes, Walde soon moved
toward a pointilistic style that was characterized by an atmosphere of vibrant
light, as evidenced by his works Der Schwarzsee (The Black Lake) and Die
Kirchstiege (Church Steps), the latter depicting the church in Kitzbühel.
These watercolors originated in the years 1910-1911. Not only did they confirm
Walde's fundamental understanding of technique and pictorial expression,
but also provided the artist with the necessary motivation to pursue a full-time
career as a painter.
In 1910, Alfons Walde began his studies at
the k.-k. (imperial-royal) Technical University of Vienna. His move to Vienna
exposed the artist to the vibrant Viennese art scene, including such groups
as the Secession, the Hagenbund and the Neukunstgruppe. Walde's development
toward a more expressive style didn't take long, as he gained inspiration
from his exposure to such notable Viennese artists as Gustav Klimt, Egon
Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, etc.
Walde's ensuing repertoire is characterized by his expressive use of black,
red and blue, as his compositional style developed a new focus on landscape
structures and the "summaric" representation of human figures.
Also emerging in this period's work is his characteristic technique of making
"engravings" on the surface of his paintings, using the opposite
end of the paintbrush.
Walde produced many small, square-format
oil paintings on cardboard, with thick, rounded, wooden frames that were
designed and painted in off-white by the artist himself. Most frequently,
the viewer encounters motifs of landscapes, forest clearings, houses, farms,
chapels, religious crosses marking the local paths, and other scenes typical
of the area around Kitzbühel; motifs from the micro-universe that surrounded
the maturing artist, many of them long since disappeared or dramatically
altered in appearance. Regardless of theme, the viewer is continually invited
to experience Walde's innermost moments of perception and emotion when looking
at these unique, intimate "visual thoughts." Secluded from metropolitan
life, this genre finds itself reduced to an idyllic view that is, ultimately,
indebted to its own mentality. Such interpretation might sound a little
sentimental, but rejection of the urban lifestyle and a strong yearning
for increased control over the immediate "living space" are quite
evident in the artist's work.