Max Weiler in his Vienna studio, 1988
(Photo: Franz Hubmann)

The question of what distinguishes an artist's "late work" is a highly controversial one, so let us first look back over the path Weiler travelled, at the works he created.

By the beginning of the 1980s, after the period of his "New Landscapes", Weiler had been painting for over fifty years. He had produced approximately 1,500 paintings, initially in oil but later, from 1960 onwards, always in egg tempera. He had also created some forty works for public places and around 4,000 sheets of drawings. He was starting to develop a sense of his own life history and was becoming increasingly aware of the extent to which his art encompassed recollections of natural images he had accumulated in his mind since he was a child. The paradise of his early childhood and the paradise of a constantly evolving nature – were they not the two sides of a single experience?

Anyone expecting to find melancholy and wistfulness in Weiler's late work will be disappointed. It was, in fact, only in his last years that the richness of all his visions and dreams fully emerged. Weiler's late work displays consummate mastery. He became the ruler of a kingdom of painting he had created through a lifetime of intense work. Now he wanted to re-experience everything a second time.

It became apparent that Weiler had trodden his own, lonely path, which could not be equated with the characteristics of Austrian art, not even "Viennese Modernism". Such a clear affirmation of nature, such an unswerving belief in the power and future of painting – who was there to match him? Many felt such confidence to be suspicious, outdated. Weiler's late work also coincided with the historic process of an ecological crisis and an awareness of "green" issues that has in the meantime spread to the general public. Through his painting, Weiler made an as yet unexplored contribution to that debate, which is certainly not yet over. It had been clear to Weiler since his early years that one of the tasks of modern art, despite or because of its artificiality, was to respond to nature. His work contains new and exemplary ways of representing nature, which go far beyond the customary schema of landscape.

Some of Weiler's late works have what can be described as an ecstatic quality. If we look, for example, at the painting "Splendour of Nature" (1987), we see that the title itself indicates abundance, a wealth of possibilities. Something similar was common in Weiler's earlier painting. What is new here is a moment of ecstasy, an intoxicating climax that gives some of his paintings a Dionysian power. "Power of Red" (1987) can be seen as the culmination of this. The huge 4 x 4 meter square canvas discharges a brightly coloured cascade of dynamic energy that builds to a central peak of extreme, ecstatic power at the point where the painting's four separate canvases coincide. Weiler initially designed this work for a funereal chapel in Lans near Innsbruck. The commission ultimately came to nothing but Weiler's remarkable answer to death, his belief in the invincible, intoxicatingly sensuous power of life, has been preserved for us. What a response to mourning and lamentation! The painting's exploding energy is not scattered; entropy is banished by the calm composure that counterbalances the acceleration we encounter in this painting. The rival forces hold each other in check.

Weiler's long-held conviction that nature and spirituality are fundamentally related acquires a new persuasiveness in his late work. His "Blue Bird. Whitsun" (1986) is particularly impressive. This allusion to the coming of the Holy Ghost, which shows not a dove but an unknown "Blue Bird", is vertically organised. Rather than being banished to a frontal distance, as it was in Weiler's religiously inspired early paintings, this reality is now represented as an event, as an epiphany that is coming to pass.

After his eightieth birthday Weiler again accepted commissions for work in public places. He painted "Like a Symphony" (1990; 5 x 6.30 m) for the auditorium of the Salzburg Landesausstellung, "Mozart's Images and Sounds", on the occasion of the bicententary of the composer's death. Finally he also painted three huge murals for the Casino in Innsbruck (1992/93), which each measure 3 x 6 meters. Dionysian ecstasy is evident in all the above-mentioned works. "It is my task to contribute something to modern art that it lacks. What is that? You can see for yourselves: it is harmony with the great life of the cosmos, a certain passiveness that encourages a secret power of the subconscious, an Asian world view that is the essential complement to this European approach. It, too, is reality. I say this for the discerning art-lovers to whom the future belongs. One is a process that does not judge itself." (1988)

Forest temple, 1981
Egg tempera on canvas
200 x 210 cm
Sammlung Wolfgang Bittermann
Autumnal landscape, 1982
Egg tempera on canvas
210 x 200 cm
Land Vorarlberg Landessammlung
On the left a bank, 1982
Egg tempera on canvas
110 x 200 cm
Essl Museum Klosterneuburg/Wien
Garden Eden, 1983
Egg tempera on canvas
120 x 160 cm
Euphoric hill, 1986
Egg tempera on canvas
95 x 195 cm
Cobalt-blue flower, 1987
Egg tempera on canvas
30 x 40 cm
Easter, 1986
Egg tempera on canvas
200 x 110 cm
Blue bird. Whitsun, 1986
Egg tempera on canvas
195 x 95 cm
Essl Museum Klosterneuburg/Wien
Good garden, 1987
Egg tempera on canvas
200 x 200 cm
Splendour of nature, 1987
Egg tempera on canvas
210 x 400 cm
October, 1987
Egg tempera on canvas
230 x 345 cm
In the depths of the forest, 1989
Egg tempera on canvas
130 x 130 cm
Blue landscape under yellow sky, 1989
Egg tempera on canvas
130 x 130 cm
Blue tree, 1988
Egg tempera on canvas
230 x 115 cm
Sammlung Bank für Arbeit und Wirtschaft AG
Golden tree, 1988
Egg tempera on canvas
200 x 200 cm
Sammlung Hans Dichand, Wien
Ultramarine green, 1990
Egg tempera on canvas
100 x 200 cm
Essl Museum Klosterneuburg/Wien
Large landscape, 1991
Egg tempera on ca100 x 200 cmnvas
Power of Red, 1987
Egg tempera on canvas
400 x 400 cm
Land Tirol Landessammlung