Max Weiler in his studio in Vienna, 1990
(Photo: Sepp Dreissinger)


Max Weiler’s "Tag- und Nachthefte", which he kept for just over thirty years (1960-1991), are extraordinary texts. They provide us with direct insights into his ideas and the gradual evolution of his paintings. They reflect the whole spectrum of his interests: reflections about his origins, an artist’s existence with its exposure to rejection and criticism, his symbiotic relationship with nature, questions about artistic creation and success, about God and the world, about the first and the last things.

This selection from his journals, which have yet to be published in full, provide access to what was essentially Max Weiler’s spiritual workshop. His thoughts flow as a stream of consciousness. They are often formulated in a single line, sometimes in a few sentences and on rare occasions in short texts. Max Weiler engaged in an open dialogue with himself about day-to-day requirements and long-term artistic aims. The dates he included indicate not only a chronology but also the underlying existential tone of these texts. Many voices are heard in them: contemplation, grief and anger, hurt, exaltation, hope and certainty, sarcastic criticism and bursts of emotion. The sensibility and spirituality of this great painter are mirrored in the many different facets of these journals.

Weiler’s "Tag- und Nachthefte" show the other side of his paintings, the rootstock from which they grew. We can experience for ourselves the dynamic that propelled his artistic existence. At the same time they are a piece of literature. Not a tract, a manifesto or a declaration, but rather a linguistically powerful dialogue between Weiler and himself which, with its scintillating formulations, startling insights and wide-reaching thoughts, open up his world to the ear rather than the eye.

Commenting the times

I was asked to join the Art-Club around 1953. I did not want to. I was invited to join the Secession. I did not want to. In 1937, I was invited to join an art association in Innsbruck. I did not want to. (1974)

The society, which has many to answer for, which has Schiele to answer for, which has no conscience and is not even conscious about this and does not even notice this, it does not allow its taboos to be disturbed. (1968)

The people who are regarded as good here in Vienna, have to do so much for their prestige that it would be a miracle, if they actually were good. (1980)

From time to time something happens that I respect as success, whenever I am praised, whenever critics write well about me, whenever something sells well. But true success is what is done well. (1962)

I do something for an imaginary society, i.e. for many individuals, who only become through me a society. (1973)

And nothing becomes and nothing happens, what one does not create oneself. (1973)

It does happen that somebody is despised in his time or by some of the leaders of that time. This continues until that time, including its leaders, will be despised by the next generation. Which will certainly occur. (1971)

Whatever an epoch deems well, has to do with its prejudices, not with reality. (1972)

I have always wanted to "touch" the people, during my time at the Academy just as in the frescoes on the Hungerburg, where I wanted to tell the Tyrolean of a passion, but also in the frescoes at the main railway station at Innsbruck, where I wanted to talk to the people. At the time, they did not like to listen to me. (1977)

My hope is in the continous flux. The prevalent face of art already turns towards evening. It shows little inclination towards me and I have little inclination towards it. (1986)

I have the very certain feeling that we creative human beings are linked in a vast unconscious connection. We participate in an unconsciousness reaching far beyond the present day, partly into the past and partly into the future. An unconsciousness that the people were subjected to, that people are subject to and that people will be subject to. (1978)

I believe in my task, in that which I am undoubtedly made for, in which all circumstances have urged me towards. Whatever eternal energy intends, is to be carried out unconditionally. I believe in this development and in this outcome. (1973)

Previously, I thought a lot during painting. No longer today. Whenever I think, I immediately note it down, i.e. it becomes script. I write more, but paintings stem from a different part of my knowledge. (1975)

It is no utopia that I am more deeply near the roots, less visible. I prefer to keep myself hidden; all askance, however, I want to intercede forcefully, from the rear, invisible, but piercing. (1983)

I have a niche to fulfill in art. (1983)

The niche that I settled on, is no niche, it is a continent. (1986)

I have worked successfully amid temporal trends, and against the trend, also successfully; and I have worked on my own without thoughts of the time and its compulsion, because I liked it. I had no success then, and I am alone in the desert. There are human beings and things that want to impress me, heedless as I am. Seemingly heedless, only seemingly. In reality, I have become solitary and cautious. I despise these impressors and no longer find them. And they disappear, have disappeared. (1972)

The bigger the mountain of prejudices is that he accumulates, the bigger seems to be the man. The next big man then moves the mountain. (1981)

Time is a mighty roller. (1981)

I could only do self-portraits in 1938 any longer, with the inscription: Above me the sky is dark. (1961)

This military was the most hated thing in my life. A subhuman matter, I was there between 1942 and 1945. I had such a rejection of this mischief that I remained completely passive in the lowest grade as lance corporal, until the end. (1974)

I hated nothing so much as the military, the death machinery, and I dreaded it. I have tried to have as little to do with it as possible, and I went home at the earliest opportunity. I was obliged to nothing, I had not sworn any oath, since I had blacked out on taking it. (1980)

Early on, I anticipated that we are never better off – with regard to future significance – than by being opposed to the tendencies of the time. (1987)

The day will come, when I will be precious. (1962)

Views on nature

The first thing that dawned on me was the beauty and the warmth of the sun. From feelings of security, of love, and of satiation angels from paradise drew over into conscious life. (1970)

I would like to create a nature that is as lively as the real world, full of chance, yet still ordered. Arbitrariness and order – and completely created from artistic means. From my means, a fantastic and infinite landscape. (1965)

A certain delicateness is necessary, a seeming naturalism, a seeming absolute resemblance with nature. Above all no adulteration, because this would disturb the relationship. My own approach is a recreation of nature, without any naturalism, it is a new creation of things tree-like, grass-like, cloud-like, earth-like, flower-like, air-like. But unique is the fact that there is nothing portrayed, nothing copied. There is no affinity with naturalism, neither with the nature painting of the Romantics. Rather than anything else, I have similarities with the artistic way of the Chinese, who also created their forms themselves, after they had experienced them in nature, i.e. they had already learnt them, had them at hand; these forms had been handed over to them through tradition, so that they only needed to be employed. I, for my part, go beyond that. Since I hardly ever take the same formula twice, even though similarities cannot be avoided. I create the airs, moods, trees, grasses and similar things in nature with my own formula. Who else can do that? Yet herself – nature – will not permit her moods, her accord with the interior of the human being take effect, if her forms are too much altered. In these cases, she retires and leaves an amusing, even good painting, while she has excused herself with best wishes. (1972)

Whenever I stand in nature, I am overcome by an enormous sense of exaltation. I look, I see and I am moved by a variety of times of day and seasons, by a variety of localities. A feeling of union with nature seizes me. Nature becomes quite transparent for me. I am drawn into the weaving of its being. A great sense of calm streams from the expansive, fulfilled plenum, the most perfect contentment – a joy of becoming one with an immense, sublime creation. Huge respect in the face of such a creative force. Boundless reverence. This would seem to be a world feeling. It becomes visible in artists from different times, almost always in the same way, in a most magnificent way by the Chinese of the 10th to the 13th centuries. (1973)

Do not forget: Often, it is the shifting of natural feelings like coldness, clouds, rain, hail, thunderstorm, haze, snow, ice into the soul’s landscape that matters. If I like them out there in nature, I also like them in the soul. One only has to dress properly. (1980)

The fact that I can build unconscious being in the form of earth, mountain, clouds and plants is a great burden on my paintings and yields me contempt from some people. It is true, however, that it is impossible to work with a clear conscience today without a shadow of contempt. (1980)

The concern with nature brings a certain freedom, superiority over the fashionable trends in our field. It frees the mind. (1981)

A wide horizon opens up, and on the white surface the paints spread, appropriately distributed, and become mountains, stone structures from titanium white and iron oxide black, lichen, bog- and forms of grasses from Bohemian or Veronese green earth or chromium oxide green, dull and ochre, blurring or thick…fog from titanium white, iron oxide black and cerulean blue with a lot of water draw along the area, as does nature. (1970)

Nature is imprinted on me in spirit, nerves and blood. I revere the creative force, I revere and love life, the peal of bells enchants me. (undat.)

Working on painting

Forever: there is no artistic, pictorial authority, nothing, for which I may look about. I rely on myself alone. (1960)

I create my own fashion. (1971)

I may not respect anything, apart from the picture. Anything. (1963)

My longing for reality leads me from the visible things to those that are invisible and still real. I try to make these visible by means of colours and the distribution of colours. (1961)

It is my task to contribute something to modern art that it lacks. What is it? You can read it, it is compliance with the great life of the cosmos, a certain passivity for the benefit of a tremendous force of the unconscious, an Asian world experience, which is the vital addition to this European view. This experience is reality, too. I am saying this for the appreciative among the art audience, and those are the ones who own the future. One is part of events that do not judge themselves. It is really necessary to find a very concise way of expression. Will and instinct; and to be very clear amid the forms of expression of the whole world – without ambiguity. (1967)

The truly essential issues in one’s message are not expressed in the content of the painting, but in its form. This form has to be recognised. It is the form that carries the truly essential message about the painter. My form: the floating, the airy, the incorporeal, the stoney, that which does not deal with the human being, the non-massive, the heavy, the bloody. The plants. (1973)

The paintings, created directly from nature, like a newly-born child, without tradition: this was part of my dream. Inspiration and execution in a new, unworn system. (1972)

Pictures I do during the day, at night I get thoughts on life and the world. (1980)

I would rather be a picture-maker and less a painter, this swaying with paint-brushes I do not like at all. (1977)

I am a thoroughly sensual painter, all that I want to express is above all expressed through my way of painting on the surface, how the lines run on it, how the colours lie on it. Everything can be said with this, and I do say everything with it. And whoever has eyes to see, will see. (1986)

One cannot paint internationally, but can only receive international recognition. (1970)

The contemporary environment proves to be a very hard stone, if I compare my work with that of a sculptor. (1977)

I have created time for myself; I have even created a sense of boredom. I make my things from this vast amount of time, from this boredom. I have gotten rid of everything that disturbs me. Along my way here, habit has done away with everything sensational. I have made myself solitary; no one wants anything from me, and there is a great peace and quiet. And the only sensation, curiosity, passion; the only pleasure, the only thing that is exciting or fascinating, is the picture on which I am working: whether or not I can get it to be the way I want, when will I have to stop. All these hundreds of decisions, experiments, this rising and emergence from the background, the process of letting it dry, painting over it again, making it darker, more distinct; in short: the pleasure deriving from a feeling of certainty. (1973)

I work completely towards a confidence in the subconscious. I carry out everything with very prudent reason and competently. The distances, the weight of the colour masses are in perfect harmony. Painting with egg tempera is secure and solid, the powders are impeccably light-resistant and good. But it goes beyond my understanding, what it is, that has been weaving down in me for 30 or 60 years, and now I work with it as something secure. Something secure, which is there and which I do not need to pay attention to, which is as strong as the fungi that have – no matter how tender they are – lifted the thick asphalt in front of my studio, which I could not break open with a pick. (1976)

I also use the expression ‘dream’ in relation to my motivation for artistic activity. For having thoughts and having ideas; thought takes form, and ideas become reality. (1978)

The painting- and drawing surface is the basis of this profession, of our business. Whatever takes place there, is the most important. (1977)

I paint this, because I enjoy it and I cannot do anything else. I hope to find all those, who take pleasure in it, too. (1977)

I did not know that the identification with the idea of being a misconceived genius is so pleasant, that I do not want to be torn from it. (1961)

No attitude is more miserable than to expect from strangers the judgement of your own achievement. Only your own, creative spirit can recognise your own, appropriate forces of creativity; since it is recognising yourself, presenting yourself that is asked for. (1979)

Human is after all not only the exterior, the face, the body, but much more what is inside. To see only the exterior, is just inhuman. (1961)

I play my game. I am simply a wall painter, I imagine everything as walls, in front of which people can stand, walk, act or relax. I have created, discovered and developed the means to achieve this. (1977)

If I am isolated, then completely, awake and deliberately. Since as long as I am, there is no other longing. Isolated I am, and isolation is my credo, my work. (1961)

Twice I have attempted to transcend the limits of the surface and to create a space out of the picture, or to reach out into space with two-dimensional pictures; in 1961 by way of meditation, in “While all Things were in Quiet Silence”. And a second time with the polyptych paintings, in which I make the painting reach out in to space by means of its many surfaces, so that it moves out towards the human being. (1972)

From my childhood, pictures occurred to me that could be folded out. You popped them out, there was a small resistance, and then cut-out plants, trees, animals, houses and human beings; a crib, a fairy tale appeared. I wanted to do something for myself from it. (1975)

It was good when James Joyce returned to Homer. I return to the Chinese of the Sung Dynasty. Regardless of the fact that they sought spirit, to express ‘Being’. They also had the formal means to do so. They quite simply learned them; these means are very simple, clear and appropriate. In today’s confusion I sought a similar, quite rational and simple formal language. Also for the spirit. That is all. (1973)

I feel obliged to paint something special, a special subject matter, a special content, a special form. Obliged to do all that alone, obliged to stay alone. (1972)

I am singled out, here in Tyrol. I live closer to the centre of Europe and far removed between mountains in a valley, like a Sung-painter. I observe everything, but I do not interfere. I am alone. (1962)

I have sieved through, hammered through, kneaded through and brought into pure form the spiritual, the sense of the landscape, the sense of the infinite landscape, the sense of the mystical-infinite in the landscape, which the Sung-Chinese and Grünewald and C.D. Friedrich had. Thus, I have realised it, made it real. And so I will last, when everybody has already vanished because of their emptiness, their frantic transformation of emptiness. Since landscape itself does not have this infinite breath, we project it onto the landscape. And why shouldn’t we project it onto her, after all we have it ourselves and seek to express ourselves through her? (1965)

Silently, not loud; emphatically, not mighty; convincingly, not boasting. These Chinese from the 12th century; these Sung-landscapes, Wang Wei, left a major impression on me, and this Grünewald. Because of the weaving of the infinite, the anticipations. (1968)

I have noticed today in the hall of landscapes of the Belvedere, where two pictures by Adalbert Stifter hung, that these two pictures were the best of all. Nature speaks from them in its most undisguised way. (1973)

Those Chinese landscape painters, who were said to walk out into their landscape and vanish. C.D. Friedrich, who was also remote: Mathis Nithart Grünewald, also somebody who was difficult to grasp; a clandestine one. Those I love. These painters, who created an empty space around them, who had a secret, who kept themselves apart, who withdrew. (undat.)

I prefer the Chinese painters between the 10th and 13th century to Caspar David Friedrich, because they possess the purer form for the same content. – Friedrich is a Romantic. Yet the Chinese are no Romantics, and neither am I. (1972)

Poetic thoughts

In 1920, I wrote: My longing is in the blue sky, in the unfathomable blue. A sense of profound thought drifts through my soul, just as behind the infinite blue the stars wander on their paths. (1960)

I can follow the pen that writes me. (1960)

I would have never thought that the will holds such a friendly peace and security. (1961)

You may do whatever you want, but it has to be accomplished with intensity as something big, significant, powerful, I cannot find better words. (1961)

It is assured that the trees do not grow into the sky. And no one can add a cubit to his or her size or cut one off. It may happen all in secret, but if something is well done, it will be seen and recognised. It is assured. (1962)

To pin one’s hopes on genius is good because in this way, one completely depends on the genius of the future viewer and relies on it. (1962)

What I am able to do, I do; what I am able to do, I want to do; what I want to do, I do; whatever I enjoy, that I do. (1963)

Bear in mind that what you create cannot be created by anybody, that you stem from timelessness, from the centuries, that you are no blind negotiator, no dreamer, but a clear builder of form. Bear this in mind, against each imagined thug. (1972)

I have always seen a destination ahead me. So far behind hills, valleys, forests I see it looking towards me, far away. There is no path to this place, and if I walked on a path, I would never reach it. I have to walk directly towards it, on wooden ways and straight ways, on detours and wrong ways and worn-out ways. Straightly towards the destination. (1974)

When I bear fruit, whose business is that? I am a tree like oak trees with mighty deep roots, which grows for a long time, until it is big and carries fruit and grows old. Not one of these trees lying around, blown down by storm, with their flat roots in the air, so that one does not wonder why it fell over. (1974)

One seed suffices at the right place. (1974)

Behind me is an immense lump of patience, a foundation for this Babylonian tower. (1964)

I do have a pet, a dog who I am myself. (1960)

I strive for something, which I will attain, via all detours, despite the barking, snappy dog. (1960)

I sense joy less than pain – it’s almost as if pain gives me more pleasure. Give me the pains of joy, the severity of joy. (1974)

I neither have support nor stick for my security. Exposed I am, doggedly I go to that place, where no one goes. Let me have at least this: Where nobody goes. (1977)

I am the stone that they touch on. (1979)

I believe like any old believer, only I believe that everything has been put inside me. (1983)

If you doubt – wherever is more love, that’s the right place. (1986)

The ancient artists have been travelling around, until they were at home, that was the place where their audience was. I will travel around, too, and will finally be at home. (1975)

The sky changes, the stars change, the earth turns and turns around. The loud will fall, the silent will rise above. (1975)

Out of two things, when you cannot decide, you should decide yourself for the more difficult one. (1975)

It is good when the individual opens up with all his energies to his or her eternal nature. (1975)

"I miss very much", says the man to the fir tree, "that you have no leaves as would be due a proper lime tree, but only needles. There is something wrong.“ The fir tree said: “Because I have no other choice, since I am made this way, I stay with the needles and reject any request for leaves." (1975)

I repeatedly forget it: "Yes" is the word. Yes is the sun. Yes is the energy. "No" makes you ill. My Yes creates people. (1976)

Love is the essence of the creator (the impetus of energy) and therefore the basis of my work. (1976)

I do not want to enter into eternal peace, but into eternal energy. (1976)

It must be like that: The human being departs into the immeasurable energy of love, thus towards the biggest happiness, well-being, pleasure. (1977)

True dignity, which has no longer anything ridiculous in it, is only brought by death. It accords it to everybody. (1975)

Some of us are made to speak to the dead, some to speak to those of the present and some to those who will be in the future. (1978)

Nature does not want us to love death, therefore it surrounds it with terror, stench and horror. We are meant to dread it, since she only wants life. (1979)

The only thing holy that I can see is life. It is part of everything, it intercedes in everything, it creates everything. It experiences everything, from the viruses to Goethe. It created all these forms, it is in all these forms, it takes effect with all these forms. It is apparently one…We all have the same life, it streams through us all. Life is happiness. (1980)

Life uses the body exactly as long as it needs it, then it takes the body off. Life is inherent in all living creatures and it has the consciousness of all living. Thus, it is a tremendous, infinite consciousness, also of all love of life. Heaven and hell are explicitly human inventions. (1980)

I have a love of longing. I also like fulfillment, but I prefer longing. It is bigger, wider, more fantastic, more glowing. Also the one of an idea, of a phantom. And it is good that way. (1981)

Behind insufficient ideas, behind insufficient language a big assumption: This is poetry, art. (1982)

Save me, I ask of life, from all this nonsense, that is undertaken in my business, I do not want to see or hear anything of it! Save yourself, says life. (1981)

Life: this is the deity. It is not the Lord, the king, the ruler of the world, the father, the judge. Nothing of all this. It is life. For each thing the same, it is within everything, beloved life. (1982)

Will I experience when my life unites again with universal life? I thought, such will it be, so marvellous, so new, so enchanting, so fulfilled and so sublime. (1982)

Whoever knows himself, his inward figure and lives boldly towards his own potential and does not care about others, will have his own success. Nothing seems to be easier than that, but unfortunately, nothing seems to be more difficult. (1982)

Whenever something matches in the head, then it also matches in reality, but it has to be a good head! (1984)

I have always created something that is difficult to see and difficult to recognise. I attach the greatest importance to impeccable competence and I appreciate, if this ability serves a bigger task. I employ it, in order to bring up the unconscious. I act under the metaphor of landscape. This is my passion, and I long for it like a drinker for alcohol. (1986)

Because we all have the same life and because I speak the language of life, therefore everybody understands me. (1987)

Those to whom I have something to say, to whom I convey happiness, those persons hear me, they see me and they will see me, they want to see me. They will do everything in order to see me. It is this happiness that attracts them. (1978)

I say that the light is heavy and the heavy is light, that it is in the whispering, that the water runs through the fingers, air moves the hair; that water and air transform the rocks, but that the rocks have not transformed water and air. (1978)