Max Weiler in his exhibition at the Salzburger Künstlerhaus, 1954

By the end of the 1940s Weiler had found his feet again: he built a studio for himself and he came into contact with the international avant-garde, particularly thanks to the French Cultural Institute in Innsbruck, which was set up by the French occupying forces and which was headed at the time by Maurice Besset, a true connaisseur of modern art. Weiler observed the artistic innovations of art informel with great interest and he met Nicolas de Staël, Manessier and other artists in person on the occasion of a subsequent visit to Paris. He did not embrace Tachisme but his paintings became more open in the 1950s, acquiring some of the characteristics of art informel, as can be witnessed in his paintings for the 1960 Venice Biennale. Yet Weiler did not lose sight of his basic experience, of his desire to capture the spiritual content of nature.

The work Weiler did in the 1950s was split between works on canvas and public commissions. Open-minded members of the public were so deeply impressed by Weiler's controversial frescoes on the Hungerburg that he was given the opportunity to paint a whole sequence of murals for public places. They were important to him because they enabled him to realise his dearly cherished aim of creating modern art with a wide public appeal. Over the decades he painted a significant number of works for public places, most of which were located in or around Innsbruck. His last commission for a public place was for the city's new Casino, where he painted three large murals in 1992/93.

The works commissioned from Weiler in the 1950s include the "Apocalypse of St. John" in the Friedenskirche in Linz-Urfahr (1951), the painting of Emperor Maximilian on the external wall of the Knabenhauptschule, a boys' grammar school, in Hall in the Tyrol (1952), the mosaics in the University Clinic in Innsbruck (1954) and above all the murals inside Innsbruck's railway station (1954/55). As early as 1950/51 Weiler had painted his wayside shrines on the road to Hall, with which he carried on from ancient traditions of popular piety. This list is indicative of the breadth of his work, which is significantly extended when his works on canvas are included. The continuum between avant-garde and commissions for specific locations is extraordinary. The mastery of huge (but also extremely small) formats became self-evident for Weiler. His painting on the iron curtain in Innsbruck's city theatre measures 110 square meters.

The canvases Weiler painted in the 1950s pursued another aim. The strong colours of the early postwar years give way to more muted tones. We find unusually shaped objects – such as massed clouds, pillar-like plants and sugarloaf mountains - in which nature manifests itself as if through signs. These are paintings in which smallness and closeness are directly transformed into a view of remoteness. Nature undergoes a metamorphosis. We are not surprised to re-encounter Weiler's old theme in a new form here. In "Mountains with Chalice (Vision in the High Mountains)", 1952, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist is so deeply rooted in nature that nature itself participates in that process.


Vinzenz Oberhammer, the Director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, invited Weiler to represent Austria at the 1960 Venice Biennale, together with the sculptor Rudolf Hoflehner. Oberhammer chose recent large-format canvases with delicate, almost monochrome colours that Weiler had painted in the late 1950s. With their absence of contrasts and their subtle quality, these were works that needed to be viewed with intensity, a process in which few visitors were likely to engage in a busy international meeting-place like Venice. While there was high praise from some quarters, particularly from Will Grohmann, the doyen of German art criticism, most reactions were reserved and hesitant. Although Weiler was upset and dissatisfied by the response, he did not succumb to disappointment on this occasion either, but instead used the exposure to an international public to compare himself with others and to renew himself. Shortly after the Biennale, he embarked on what was possibly the greatest challenge and certainly the most ambitious project in his entire artistic career when he started painting "While all things...", a sequence of twenty-nine canvases that combine with one another like the words in a sentence to achieve their meaning.

The high degree of continuity that characterises Weiler's work caused him, among other things, to return to earlier themes. For example, he reverted on several occasions to the "Song of Songs" and "The Peasant Family", transposing into his latest style those elements of them that preoccupied him. As a result, we observe significantly different stylistic attitudes to an unchanged theme. But what is that theme? Can we even speak of thematic continuity given Weiler's progression from figurative to partly or completely abstract paintings?

That question has given rise to some confusion in previous literature about Weiler. Commentators have generally suggested that his purpose was to develop abstract, self-sufficient compositions, but that is only half the truth. His purpose was rather that viewers should constantly recollect and visualise the reality of an initial painting as they followed its modification over the years. His sequences of paintings create strata in time. Weiler’s works may fall into the category of painting about painting, but he was inspired by an interest in defining his own aspirations, the position he had just reached, rather than in formal aspects. It is as if he carefully mapped out the historical space of his own work and the framework within which he operated.

The marriage of creator and creature, who are united in love, was as characteristic of Weiler as was his attempt, in a difficult personal and historical environment following the collapse of the ideals of "Bund Neuland", to create a new foundation for his work through meticulous observation of human beings and nature. To see what is there: that maxim expresses his continuity. After 1945 Weiler returned to this earthly, worldly way of seeing, which was deeply rooted in reality and the premises for which had already been created in the late 1930s.

Upper Inn valley, 1952
Egg tempera on canvas
100 x 80 cm
Albertina, Wien - Sammlung Batliner
Mountains with chalice (Vision in the high mountains), 1952
Egg tempera on canvas
85,5 x 85,5 cm
Chalice and flowers (Chalice), 1953
Egg tempera on canvas
100 x 100 cm
Landscape with striped sky, 1953
Egg tempera on paper on canvas
95 x 95 cm
Sammlung Dr. Otto Breicha
Many-winged angel over mountainous landscape, 1954
Egg tempera on canvas
90 x 89,5 cm
Belvedere Wien
Cherub, 1955
Oil, egg tempera on canvas
90 x 90 cm
Belvedere Wien
Night in winter, 1955
Oil, egg tempera on canvas
85 x 84 cm
Albertina, Wien - Sammlung Batliner
Prophet (pointing figure, painting - blue ground), 1956-58
Oil on canvas
200 x 227,5 cm
Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz
How by someone's hand death (Tree in paradise with snake and crucifixion. Composition on blue), 1957
Oil on canvas
117 x 146 cm
The baptism in the Jordan (Red from above), 1957
Egg tempera on canvas
155 x 115 cm
Those who live in the stone world II (Structures red on grey), 1957
Oil, egg tempera on canvas
197 x 205 cm
Belvedere Wien
Painting - white blocks, 1958
Oil, egg tempera on canvas
190 x 207 cm
Colour blocks (Painting - colour blocks), 1959
Oil, egg tempera, sand on canvas
196 x 108 cm
Landeskrankenhaus Natters
Symmetry of the steppes I (Painting - with red. Composition 10), 1959
Oil, egg tempera on canvas
95 x 110 cm
Sammlung Dr. Wolfgang Klocker, Innsbruck
Being (Painting - red shape above. While all things were in quiet silence), 1960
Oil, egg tempera on canvas
233 x 140 cm