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A retrospective exhibition of the important Austrian painter Alfred Zoff is currently being held at the Martin Suppan Galerie in Vienna. He was a master of seascape painting and of capturing the play of light and darkness. Emperor Franz Joseph was a fan and a collector of his work.

Marie-Theres Michel, 27 January 2022

We walked on the picturesque beach of Nervi and on the promenade enraptured by the surging sea breaking on the cliffs. What an unforgettable spectacle.” (Alfred Zoff)

Throughout his life, Austrian painter Alfred Zoff (1852 – 1927) was fascinated by the sea, waves, and various celestial moods. He spent much of his time traveling, mainly to the sea. He visited the Italian Riviera, the Adriatic coast down to Dubrovnik, the coast of Amalfi and the island of Capri, the Atlantic coast in Brittany, and even the North Sea in Holland. He returned regularly to the Italian Riviera, to which he was especially connected.

Currently, a retrospective exhibition is taking place in the Galerie Martin Suppan in the Palais Coburg in Vienna. More than 100 works by Alfred Zoff are on display. His early drawings and paper and oil studies for large studio paintings, as well as an entire series of oil sketches which he made on his countless travels are featured in this exhibition. Some of his great works, such as the first “Large Field Landscape with Staffage (Pontafel)” from 1882/84, purchased by Emperor Franz-Josef and on loan from the Joanneum Museum in Graz, are on display.

Emperor Franz-Josef was a great admirer of Alfred Zoff’s paintings and purchased a total of eight of his paintings. On the occasion of the opening of the Museum of the Austrian Province of Styria (Landesmuseum) in Graz in 1895, in which some of Alfred Zoff’s works were also shown, the Emperor is on record as saying: “Very beautiful, very beautiful, but your best paintings– I own them all.

Alfred Zoff spent most of his life traveling and making countless oil sketches of his travel impressions. Traveling at that time meant traveling by train, taking his painting materials with him or sending them ahead in the hope that they would not get lost, which unfortunately did happen. For reasons of space and also organization, he took only smaller canvases, which he then painted on the spot–directly on the cliffs by the sea, surrounded by the sounds of the crashing waves. These oil sketches became the basis for his large oil paintings, which he painted in his studio, after returning from his travels.

His talent was to capture nature, by reproducing the changing moods of the landscape caused by the weather conditions.” (Univ. Prof. DDr. Wilfried Skeiner, The tireless eye, in Suppan 1991, 11). It was not until he moved to Graz in 1907 and was appointed professor at the Styria Art Academy in Graz (Landeskunstschule) that the landscape motif, especially the Styrian one, became central to his art.  Wonderful impressions of blossoming fruit trees, forest streams and Styrian landscapes emerged during this time. He became a master of the play of light and shadow.

“… this is perhaps the greatest honor that can be bestowed on Alfred Zoff: regardless of their varied historical contexts, his masterful works still exert to this day a continued fascination on us.” (Dr. Peter Peer, A Master of Austrian Landscape Painting on International Paths, Alfred Zoff, Edition Suppan, 2021, 24).

Accompanying the exhibition is a revised monograph of his work which includes an expanded catalog of over 1500 paintings and 350 studies on paper, a chronological timetable, Zoff’s exhibition and travel activities and over 100 color plates. The first version of this complete monograph was published in 1992.

Exhibition of Alfred Zoff: The Fascination of the Sea

Martin Suppan Gallery
Seilerstätte 3C, 1010 Vienna
Until the end of February 2022

Picture: Alfred Zoff (1852-1927) Felsenküste bei Nervi, um 1890, Öl auf Leinwand/Karton, 26,5 x 37,5 cm © Suppan Fine Arts, Vienna
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