“Tyrolean Landscape” — Or Is It?

This is by Albert Bierstadt, the 19th-century painter who’s best known for his landscapes of the American West. It’s from 1868 and titled “Tyrolean Landscape“, but I am not so sure. There may very well be a duet of jagged mountain peaks in Tirol that look just like this…

…but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Watzmann, which is in Berchtesgaden.(Image found here.

Yes, I can sense you shrugging your shoulders and rolling your eyes all the way from here — does it matter, you ask? Why yes, it does. Try calling a Tiroler German someday, see where that gets you. 🙂

And since Berchtesgaden belongs to a little dangling peninsula that’s surrounded by Austria, I looked on a map to see if it were possible that one could paint the Watzmann this large while actually standing in Tirol — nope, it’s Salzburg Land all around for kilometers. Was he (1) misinformed about his location, (2) is this indeed another mountain group, or (3) am I missing some important border realignment from the First World War?

But as long as we’re discussing the Watzmann, here is one by Caspar David Friedrich, who had never actually seen the Watzmann with his own eyes and only knew the mountain from others’ works (come to think of it, we’ll call that (4) and it may be the best answer to the above question.)

and one by Adrian Ludwig Richter, which I happen to like the most. It reminds me little of landscapes by the Tirolean artist Rudolf Lehnert.

Friedrich and Richter images found here.

Cozens in Brixen*

I had already been toying with the idea of a series of alpine paintings accompanied by photos of the mountains which inspired them, when Paschberg sent me the link to this watercolor by the 18th century British artist John Robert Cozens, with the somewhat clunky but informative title The Valley of the Eisak Near Brixen in the Tyrol, 1783/84. It currently belongs to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Looking around online for more information, I found a “2.0” version; In the Tyrol, the Valley of the Eisack, near Brixen, 1791 The painting, like the name, is similar but not identical — the view looks to be from further down on the floodplain, closer to the winding river. This version belongs to the National Gallery of Canada.

Near Brixen, June 7 appears to be the original sketch for both paintings. The Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection owns it…

…as well as this sketch with the same name. Since they are both dated June 7, one can assume the two scenes are not far away from each other. Perhaps all Cozens did was turn around, and sketch the view in the opposite direction.

There are tentative plans for a trip into that area next month. I can’t spend days hunting down this particular place but I’m going to keep my eyes open for it. The river may have changed since Cozen’s trip (dredged, straightened) but the mountains will still be there.

*Brixen is a town in the German-speaking, northernmost region of Italy. The Italian name, which may be all you find in an American atlas, is Bressanone.

The Albrecht-Dürer-View, in Mösern

Do you remember the local theory that Pieter Breugel sketched out his “Hunters In The Snow” while sitting on the shady banks below Schloss Ambras, at Innsbruck? This is Albrecht Dürer’s Self-portrait at 26, which is hanging in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Dürer traveled from Nuremberg to Italy in 1494, and like Breugel he was impressed by the alpine landscape and made sketches which he would use in later works. The village of Mösern, near Seefeld in Tirol, claims that the landscape visible from the window is clearly of the Inn Valley as viewed from Mösern, and has named this particular vista the “Albrecht-Dürer-View”.

I’d say this is a pretty good match, especially for a painting made from a sketch, itself made years before on a journey.

Above photo by Veronika Freh found here. Image of Dürer’s self-portrait from Wikipedia.

Bruegel’s “Hunters In The Snow” in the film “Melancholia”

Much has already been written on the artworks featured in Lars von Trier’s new film “Melancholia”. One of them, in fact the first painting you’ll see in the film’s prologue, has a possible local connection and, if so, an interesting feature.
Viel wurde schon geschrieben über die Kunststücke in den Film “Melancholia”. Eines davon, das erste Gemälde das man im Film sieht, hat eine unbewiesene aber sehr interessante Verbindung mit Innsbruck.

“Hunters in the Snow”, Peter Bruegel (or Brueghel) the Elder, 1565.
Image from Wikipedia.de

One Professor Wilhelm Fischer of Innsbruck wrote an academic treatise a while back, maintaining that Bruegel, on his return trip from Italy, must have come through Innsbruck and made sketches of the landscape. In his opinion this is clearly the village of Amras, the Sill River, and the Inn Valley beyond (with some artistic changes taken into account. The valley is a tad too narrow so the other settlements are not exactly in the right place, for example. And our mountains are not that pointy.)

Der Innsbrucker Professor Wilhelm Fischer behauptet, daß Bruegel auf seiner Rückreise aus Italien in Innbruck weilte, und machte Skizzen von der Landschaft. Laut Fischer ist das Dorf im Bild offensichtlich Amras, mit der Sill und dem Inntal im Hintergrund (man muß aber dann manche künstlerische Freiheiten einkalkulieren — das Tal ist zu eng, die andere Siedlungen sind nicht genau, wo sie hingehören sollen. Und die umringenden Berge sind nicht so spitz.

If this is so, then that skating pond may well be the lost and forgotten Amraser See — remember the Amraser See? It vanished some decades ago and now the DEZ shopping mall stands in its place. What an apt subject for the film.
I doubt Lars von Trier had even heard of this, perhaps he used the painting among others to show melancholy (the dejected hunters and even their sorry-looking hounds) being confronted by both gaiety (villagers out and about)  and disaster (according to this blogger the farmhouse on the river has just had an explosion. In any event, it is burning.) Like Justine’s arrival at her wedding reception, you might say. We could continue into the theme of Death As Bridegroom but that’s beyond the scope of my knowledge.

Wenn dieses Gemälde das Dorf Amras zeigt, dann ist der Teich im Bild der verschwundene, vergessene Amraser See, wo jetzt der Einkaufzentrum “DEZ” steht. Herr von Trier weiß davon sicher nichts; vielleicht stellt das Bild für ihn eine richtige Melancholie dar,  (die niedergeschlagene Jäger sogar ihre Hünde),  die mit Fröhlichkeit (die Dorfleute) und Pech (ein brennendes Haus) konfrontiert wird. Man vergleicht ihr Ankommen mit Justine’s Ankommen an das Hochzeitsfest (im Film).

Considering the film’s theme of everything going under, the inclusion of a painting which itself shows something already lost and forgotten is interesting (to probably nobody but me, but hey, it’s my blog and I get to write what I want.) A lost world inside a lost world.

Ein Bild von einem verschwundenen Ort, in einer Geschichte über das kommende Verschwinden unserer Welt. Eine verlorene Welt in einer verlorenen Welt.

More about the artworks featured in the film here (English) and hier (deutsch.)

Das Tirol Panorama

There was finally time for a visit to the Panorama Museum, home of Innsbruck’s historic Riesenrundgemälde, previously displayed in the Rotunde in town. The interior is all modern glass and concrete, but they’ve done nice work with the presentation of the old-timey panorama painting, which still has its charms. One particularly strong impression is one of the very first — you have to descend an escalator to a lower level and then walk up a set of stairs to get “into” the panorama, and from the bottom of the stairs you see the Northern Range, and for a second you really aren’t sure if it’s not the real thing you’re looking at. Later in the connected Kaiserjägermuseum you find yourself looking up another set of stairs, at the top of which is a large picture window which does look out on the real Northern Range, and then you realize what the architect was up to.

Back downstairs, one proceeds into a large space with a lot of “tiroliana”, some of it hidden in secret compartments within wooden pillars, which looked popular with children. In the center of the room is a lot of political remnants (such as the horse’s head from a Mussolini statue from South Tirol, blown up by activists in 1961).

On the other side, a showcase of all manner of local “stuff”, past and almost-present. We didn’t quite get this part; it was as if the museum had to find a way to tie all these objects together and decided to display it almost randomly, with the archaeological finds right next to  20th-century mountain-climbing gear, insect display cases next to old crèches. Sometimes the explanatory signs were not easy to find. We decided that the snowboard must have been Andreas Hofer’s.

If you are visiting Innsbruck and want to see the Museum, I recommend taking the Nr. 1 streetcar to Bergisel (the last stop), then walking up the hill to the museum. There is also a restaurant with outdoor seating, and a gazebo from which to enjoy the view. Just across the park is the entrance to the ski jump arena, which also houses a cafe perched atop the jump, and more impressive views. This museum seems to be more for the locals than for visitors, but if you are interested in getting a sense of Tirolean history and culture without having to do much reading or traveling around, this could do it. The museum offers free headsets with audio tracks which explain what you are seeing. We did not take them, so I can’t tell you how they are.

A Surprise In The Kaiserjägermuseum

So, I finally made good on my promise and took my young friend to the still-new Tirol Panorama Museum on Bergisel. It’s connected to the Kaiserjäger Museum, which is dedicated to the Empire’s local militia regiments from the 19th century, so we wandered through that too, just looking at the paintings and the weapons with mild interest.

In one room my eyes rested on a large painting of soldiers greeting Kaiser Karl, the last Emperor of Austria. I found interesting the one soldier turning to look directly at the painter, and so my eyes dropped down to read the artist’s signature.

Say what? “John Quincy Adams, began in 1916. Lois Alton rest[ored?] and finished in 1935.”

Not the U.S. President, but a descendant, 1874-1933. Interesting what Wikipedia (the German site) tells me — his father, Carl Adams, was a Heldentenor at the Vienna Court Opera for ten years, then brought his family back to America when John Quincy was four years old. At age twenty-six he enrolled in the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, and went on to have a pretty successful career on both continents. He’s even got a grave of honor in Vienna’s central cemetery.

Here is another work, to show that it wasn’t all war paintings for him. Of Countess Michael Karolyi, from 1918. Very nice.

The restorer Lois, or Luis (short for Alois) Alton was a local artist of landscapes and portraits.