HANS PIFFRADER: THE ARTIST OF THE BAS-RELIEF
Hans Piffrader (b. Klausen-Chiusa 1888, d. Bolzano-Bozen 1950). Biographical Notes
Piffrader was born in Klausen-Chiusa in 1888. From 1906 to 1911 he attended the State Technical School in Innsbruck; going on to study sculpture at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, in 1911. His studies were interrupted in 1915 by the call to arms, after which he was sent to fight on the southern front, with the 2nd Tiroler Kaiserjäger Regiment. Medically discharged in 1918, he returned to the Vienna Academy to complete his artistic training under professors Edmund von Hellmer and Josef Müller.
In 1923 Piffrader received his first public commission: the Kaiserjäger Monument at Bergisel, Innsbruck. In 1924 he returned to Klausen-Chiusa. He then travelled to Paris and in Germany. In 1925-26 he participated in the Tiroler Künstler Exhibition, which toured seven German cities. During the same period, Piffrader completed the funeral monument at the Gelsenkirchen war cemetery in Germany.
In 1931 he moved to Bolzano-Bozen. It was here that he came into closer contact with the official art world of the Fascist regime. While the Fascists did not interfere directly with the stylistic choices of the artist, they instead rewarded like-mindedness, by offering well-organized exhibitions, prizes and public art projects. Piffrader, who had already exhibited at the Biennial Exhibitions in 1922 and 1924, participated fully from 1930 to 1940, receiving numerous prizes.
In 1932 he entered the Fascist Union of Fine Arts, participating in their exhibitions at Trento (1937) and Padua (1939). He was also present at their most prestigious exhibition for artists from South Tyrol-Alto Adige and the north Italian Tridentine area, in Rome 1938. On that occasion Piffrader gave Mussolini a small reproduction of his work Veni, Vidi, Vinci (I Came, I Saw, I Conquered), completed that year for the Cesare Battisti Technical School, Bolzano-Bozen. The work depicts the defeat of the Lion of Judah, symbolic of the Fascist victory over Ethiopia.
In 1939 he was knighted. In the same year he completed the facade of the Cassa di Risparmio savings bank, and further, received the commission for the bas-relief on Casa del Fascio, on which he worked until 1942.
In 1940 he joined the National Fascist Party (PNF).
In 1946 he was a co-founder of the Südtiroler Künstlerbund (South Tyrolean Cultural Federation), to which he was nominated president the following year.
He died in Bolzano-Bozen in 1950.
From a stylistic perspective, Piffrader's first sculptural works were influenced by the Viennese environment in which he had trained, and by the Secessionist ideas he had come into contact with.
After his traumatic experiences in the First World War, he orientated towards expressionism (in particular Egon Schiele and Alfred Kubin). This is a style that seeks to convey the dramatic tension of the artist and his tragic vision of existence. This is evident in his series of drawings of great formal and interpretative allegory.
In his public sculptures from the second half of the thirties, he abandoned expressionism in favour of a severe monumental style, including static figures with seemingly theatrical gestures. It should not be forgotten, however, that in the bas-relief for the Casa Littoria, the stylistic choices were strongly influenced and directed by the architectural committee.
Despite remaining President of the Künstlerbund, after the war he virtually ceased artistic production.
The artist Hans Piffrader in his studio, Bolzano
First plaster model of the relief (left part and centre)
Draft sketch of the relief
3 Sketch of the central part of the relief
Sketch and realisation
Sketch and realisation
The artist Hans Piffrader
at 60 (circa 1948)
Hans Piffrader‘s „Veni, Vidi, Vinci relief „, showing the Lion of Judah. Displayed in the Cesare Battisti Commercial High School, Bolzano, 1938.