Almen im März signed 'A. Walde' (lower right) and inscribed 'Kitzbuhel, Tiro...' (on partial label verso) oil on board (in the artist's frame) 48 x 58cm (18 7/8 x 22 13/16in). Painted circa 1935
This work is sold with a letter of authenticity from Prof. Dr. Gert Ammann, dated Völs 2013-09-28.
PROVENANCE Arnold Brown, Wrotham, U.K. (acquired late 1930s). By descent to the present owner.
Almen im März showcases one of Alfons Walde's most characteristic motifs that of an Austrian chalet perched on the snowy slopes of his local Kitzbühel under a radiant blue sky, filled with crisp bright light. Winter landscapes of the wide smooth slopes of his native town are amongst the artist's most recognisable works and indeed this particular view was revisited throughout the 1930s. Painted circa 1935 the present work anticipates the 1937 work by the same title, in which only subtle differences in the shadows can be discerned. Walde often reworked his compositions, reproducing them not only in paintings but prints and postcards produced by his own publishing company for the burgeoning tourist trade, for which the present work was printed as a colour postcard.
Following his military service in the Second World War, Alfons Walde returned to Kitzbühel and devoted himself to painting the Tyrolean landscape around him, particularly in winter. He was the first artist to successfully make skiing the subject of a painting and would also design posters to promote the popular winter resort. Often painting his compositions en plein air after skiing to various viewpoints, Walde developed an individual style which is epitomised by Almen im März.
The exaggeratedly elongated chalets sit on a mountain ridge built up with impasto layers of carefully nuanced shades of white, revealing the earth beneath in some areas where the snow has melted under the early spring sun. The strong light radiates off the slopes while the contrasting shadows are blue, mirroring the deep blue expanse of sky above. As a pinpoint of contrasting colour, a skier in red walks up to the cottage door. This figure also serves to provide a sense of scale to the composition.
The picture plane appears flattened as the radiant bright blue sky bursts forwards, a tilted perspective which is only reinforced by the echoing blue shadows of the mountains. The tactile snow is also formed of smaller brush marks in contrast to the pure plane of colour above. This strong sky is an indispensible element of Walde's landscapes, while the impastoed surface is typical of his style in the early 1930s.
Walde dispenses of unnecessary details and paints in a stylised, reduced style which shows his early training as an architect and graphic artist. He first studied architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna from 1910 to 1914 and befriended the influential architect Robert Oerley. Vienna was where he met Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, and his artistic development was also influenced by Ferdinand Hodler. Walde's long-held interest in architecture can be seen throughout his painted oeuvre and indeed after the 1930s he would increasingly concentrate on architectural projects rather than painting.
The very personal subject of the present work, focussing on the artist's homeland, is enhanced by its presentation in its original frame, which would have been made locally and then painted by the artist. The harmony of distinctive architecture, nature and man is typical of Walde, as is the atmospheric light, graphic style and impastoed surface. As an iconic winter landscape that is still popular today, Almen in März can be counted among one of the finest achievements by this ground-breaking twentieth-century artist.