ALT, Rudolf von
(b. 1812, Wien, d. 1905, Wien)


Austrian painter, draughtsman and printmaker. Born as Rudolf Alt, he could call himself von Alt and bear the title of a Ritter after he gained nobility in 1889. He was the son of the famous lithographer Jakob Alt.

Von Alt was perhaps the most productive and accomplished watercolour painter in German-speaking Europe in the 19th century. On his frequent travels he produced local views, landscapes and interiors, often commissioned by aristocratic patrons. He studied with his father, Jakob Alt (1789-1872), a landscape and watercolour painter and one of the first to use the new technique of lithography. From the age of six Rudolf accompanied him on study trips, and, together with Alt's other children, he coloured his father's drawings. During his student days at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna (1825-32), Rudolf joined his father on further journeys and collaborated in his studio.

In 1832 he won a prize, which simultaneously freed him from military service and marked the beginning of his independent artistic activity. In the same year he produced his first oil painting, after his own watercolour, of the Stephansdom, Vienna (Vienna, Belvedere), a subject that he treated on many occasions until 1898. In 1833 he and his father travelled to northern Italy; Venice, in particular, made a lasting impression on him. Two years later he went to Rome and Naples. In the brilliant southern light Alt adopted a far wider range for his radiant and transparent colour. Many of his views of Italy, and also those of locations throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were intended for use in a peep-show, commissioned by the Austrian Archduke (later Emperor) Ferdinand. Alt continued to receive such official commissions until 1848.

Rudolf von Alt's official commissions earned him a variety of titles and awards. His success allowed him to accept or decline work as he chose. He created a series of landscapes, town views and building interiors for Vienna Academy, but declined a professorship to the Vienna Academy in 1867.

Alt demonstrated a remarkable talent for expressing certain peculiarities in nature. He managed to paint nature authentically by focusing on the different hues of sky, the colour-tone of the air and the vegetation. His later works came closer to Impressionism. His perspectives on architecture were interesting, and he often chose everyday objects to paint. The painting of interior-views also became one of his strong points, giving him an admiring following in Vienna.

One of the founding members of the Vienna Künstlerhaus (Austrian Artist's Society), von Alt became its president in 1874, and was later appointed honorary president of the Vienna Secession. Traveling extensively until well into old age before his death in 1905, Rudolf von Alt amassed a body of more than 5000 works - most of them watercolours depicting landscapes in topographically precise proportions.

His younger brother Franz Alt, (1821-1914) was also a painter.

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