21 September 2009

The Continuing Absence Of Carl Moll

What absences do we see in paintings, and does it matter?
Looking at these unfamiliar  luminist  paintings, with their ethereal atmospherics, suggests the question: why don't we recognize them and who made them?  There must be a back story here.
Vienna in 1886 was an incubator of young artists. Its energy, edginess, and enervation made for a heady mix, but one of every six residents of Vienna came from the poor outposts of the Habsburg Empire and lacked a permit to live there.  You can't see them in The View from Schindler's Window.
Carl Moll (1861-1945) painted the scene at left scene from a window in the home of his teacher, Emil Schindler, that same year. Soon after Schindler died in 1892, Moll married Schindler's widow Anna. In marrying Anna Schindler, Moll became the stepfather of seven year-old Alma, who would grow into the beautiful, temperamental, and much-married Alma Schindler Mahler Werfel Gropius.

Among his contemporaries, Moll was noted for his foresightedness. Hel was an early member of the Vienna Secession in 1897, and he seceded from the group in 1905, along with Gustav Klimt.  He promoted Klimt's art and introduced the Viennese to Vincent Van Gogh's paintings. He later became an early supporter  of Hitler's National Socialism in the 1920s. Fast forward to 1945, when  Carl Moll committed suicide, together with his daughter and son-in-law, as the Soviet Army entered Vienna.  We begin to see things that are not obvious in Moll's paintings.
Of course, we see none of this in The View From Schindler's Window. When looking at Moll's self-portrait (1906) or the view of his snow-covered studio from the outside (c. 1905) we see a world of calm introspection, of a new aesthetic in painting masterfully applied. His use of diagonals and bird's eye views allows a subtle lightness in his landscapes, an aesthetic of  verisimilitude, resembling something, but not the thing itself, rather like the Schindler-Moll family perhaps.
There is some flattening of the picture plane, as in the work of other Secessionists, although not in the interiors; they pull us into the Finance Ministry chambers and a domestic interior through a series of diagonals created by open doors.

Many of Moll's paintings hang in Viennese museums, but his work is often absent from retrospectives of his generation because his personal history is unpalatable in so many ways.  He assumed the mantle of all that had been Schindler's as his by right. His supplanting of  Emil Schindler in his family and his art world never sat well.   He was not enthusiastic about having Gustav Mahler join the family, unwelcome on at least two counts as a Jew and as a rival artist.
Far from being a great man, Moll (whose name translates from the German as 'minor') was far from a minor artist. But the work remains, waiting for a time when it will win out over history, as beautiful work always does.

1.  The View From Schindler's Window, 1886, Essl Collection, Austria.
2. Verschneites Studio on Theriesiengasse, c. 1905, Dichaud Collection, Austria.
3. The Artist In His Studio, 1906, Akademie der Bilder Kunst, Gemaldgalerie, Vienna.
4. Winter In Preibach, 1904, private collection, Vienna.
6. Winter Scene -Heiligenstadt, c.1904.
7.  View Of Heilligenstadt, 1906, Dichaud Collection, Austria.
8. The Interior Of The Ambassador's Residence.
9. Interior In Dobling, 1908, private collection, Vienna.
10. Twilight, c. 1900, Osterresiches Galerie Belvedere, Vienna.


Art said...

Oooo, I especially like the winter landscape...beautiful.

Aida Costa said...

It's always interesting and somewhat disturbing to find out that an artist's personal sensibilities are questionable (or even distasteful) yet the person produces such serene work. These examples give me a 'Rockwell-esque' feeling - they're certainly uplifting and seem to be expressing joy and positive vibes. Very interesting.

The Clever Pup said...

This pictures are so evocative. I need to get to Europe. My husband, the lucky skunk, gets to go next month.

Jane said...

Yes, Moll's work is often beautiful. Unlike Klimt, whose work he supported, Moll leaned more toward the Victorian (you could say hypocritical, given his personal behavior) than the Bohemian view of life. His portraits of women and children are conventional. His self-portrait is an impressive, distanced version of himself. If you didn't know who he was, you could mistake him for a burgher.

Bridget said...

Thank you for this very interesting post: I rediscover Moll that I saw in Berlin a long time ago, yes the winter landscapes are stunning.I didn't know, his life, a terrible time!

Jane said...

Welcome, Bridget. How fortunate you are to see this work in person. I don't think there are any of Moll's paintings in the United States.

Jane said...

Welcome, Bridget. How fortunate you are to see this work in person. I don't think there are any of Moll's paintings in the United States.

Cynthia said...

In the self portrait, the sculpture to the left foreground resembles the paintings of Egon Schiele. Any connection there?

Jane said...

Cynthia, I can't find out for certain, but it's a good guess on your part. Moll had an astute eye.

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

Love Carl Moll, love this post!

thank you very much for posted this beautifull, powerfull artist

greetings from Vienna

Laura Tedeschi

Jane said...

Greetings to you, Laura, from New York! An aspect of Moll's work that interests me is how he was aware of Impressionism but took what he could use from it without copying.

Anonymous said...

Dear all, Carl Moll is still not in the area means olymp where he belongs to, due to the fact that his late history means 38-45 was influenced by the political circumstances. He is defenitely one of the greatest Artists we ever had in Austria, even though not that inconvenient as Gustav Klimt, but today a classical artist, what will be named as classical modernism nowadays. I collect only his paintings because they are the final destination of an artistic development. I love his strong colours and uniqueness of his way painting light.
Natural light is live and live is beautiful as his paintings

Jane said...

Anonymous, perhaps with the 100th anniversary of Mahler this year, some attention will be paid to others in his circle. Moll's works deserve more attention.

Anonymous said...

This is Bernhard (anonymus) from Today, i will try to organize an Exhibition in the moma ny or Metropoliten withein The Next two Years, its good to Know that there is such a Request for Moll in The States. Even in Vienna you can hardly see his work, except in the Leopold Museum or Upper Belvedere. To get new undiscouvered paintings is pretty hard, even in Austria, but i dry hard, his Oeuvre from 1900 onwards is estimated for more than 900 paintings. With all collectors and owners i spoke, i was said that they don't want to sell due to their Beauty, so pretty few are known or described in Books or The net. Greetings from Vienna. Bernhard

Anonymous said...

Moll was a great figure in Austrian art, his paintings were considered equivalent to those of Klimt and they were displayed at the major exhibits side by side. Although a major organizer and dealer of then contemporary art and a respected painter he remained modest. His non-resistance to the political madness of the dark period of Austria must be separated from his quality as the magnificent artist he was. A retrospective comprehensive exhibit would a most necessary tribute to a great artist and is over-due.

Jane said...

Anonymous, I agree that a Carl Moll exhibition is long overdue. You make the best case for Moll, the person, which I think is way too charitable toward his personal failings. The art deserves to be seen, and if it makes us uncomfortable to contemplate his art and his actions together, then all the more reason to do it.

JFS_1 said...

My Jewish grandmother had two Molls, and knew the family. It was part of our family history that Moll himself, or his family before him, were converted Jews (or crypto Jews), and that his support of Hitler was some combination of cultural self-hatred, distancing, camouflage, self-deception. Also, that the suicides were due not to the anticipated loss of power or imprisonment, but to the horror of the exposure of the concentration camps.

Given that my father met Alma Mahler when he was a child of 5, and my grandmother's friends, both in Vienna, then New York, then Los Angeles included many people from the art world (Bauhaus-linked, mostly Jewish), perhaps this has some credence? The existence of Crypto-Jews in Spain, dating back to the inquisition, is well-documented; less so, that there were many Austro-Hungarian Jews who "passed."

I would be glad to send a picture of one of the two Moll's, if anyone is curious. It is a parkland scene, the style from the 1920's (flatter planes of light--and of paint--hints of Van Gogh influence).

anna said...

I am an Austrian but have lived in England for forty years. I have only recently come across Moll's work when searching for re-prints of Austrian winter landscapes. I purchased a reprint of " Die Hohewarte im Schnee", which seems the only reprint available in this country. I just love the whole painting, but in particular the park bench which the familiar iron arm rests which I remember so well from my childhood.I now want to see more of this artist and will look out for it next time I am in Vienna.

Jane said...

Anna, thank you. Moll's art is worth another look and his character flaws provide an opportunity to confront the relationship between the individual freedom artists claim for themselves and its tenuous connection to what they - and we - do in the wider world.

Josephus said...

I am sure Carl Moll was a by-product of the times. It was fashionable and generally commonplace in artistic circles to be anti-Semite but I wouldn't put him in the same category as others. Carl may not have been enthusiastic about Mahler initially but he genuinely loved and respected him to the end. Regardless, his art is beautiful.

Jane said...

Josephine, welcome and thank you for your comments. Moll's art was very fine. It is well documented in Moll's own words that he refused to help fellow artist Oskar Kokoshka when Kokoshka was targeted by the Nazis for his "degenerate" art. Worse yet, Moll was an enthusiastic Nazi supporter who committed suicide along with his daughter and son-in-law in 1945 when the Nazis were defeated. Moll the person has damaged the reputation of Moll the artist. "Fashionable" doesn't begin to excuse his behavior.