SIGMUND WALTER HAMPEL
(Vienna 1867 - 1944 Nußdorf am Attersee)
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
Signed lower left Sigmund Walter Hampel
Graphite, pen and ink, watercolor and gold paint on paper
15 ¼ x 13 inches (38.7 x 33 cm)
Sigmund Walter Hampel came into his own as an artist alongside some of the most well-known and revolutionary minds of fin-de-siècle Vienna. The son of a glass painter and gilder, Hampel began to explore art and design from an early age in his father’s workshop. At just seventeen years old he entered the Vienna Academy for painting but gave up his studies after just three years because he felt stifled by the staunchly traditional curriculum. His departure bears comparison to that of Egon Schiele, who would later leave the Academy for comparable reasons in 1909. Hampel grew to be a talented artist working in the spirit of the gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, the concept to which his colleagues and friends Josef Hoffman and Kolomon Moser dedicated their lives in founding the design collective Wiener Werkstätte in 1903. He was also a friend and neighbor to famed artist Gustav Klimt on Lake Attersee, where Hampel spent every summer for sixty years and ultimately lived until the end of his life. Though lesser known than his Viennese contemporaries, Hampel earned international renown as the winner of the Grand Prix in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair as a member of the Hagenbund, and the Golden Medal at the Rio de Janeiro Exposição Nacional in 1908.
In this depiction of The Temptation of Saint Anthony Hampel’s keen attention to compositional detail is made clear in the gridlines he uses to compartmentalize the entirety of the sheet. The seemingly unfinished work reveals itself to be a compete drawing with the artist’s signature plainly legible at the lower left corner as evidence. Hampel draws upon motifs and styles from Symbolism and Art Nouveau, which he executes with several mediums including watercolor, graphite and gold paint. His multidisciplinary training is apparent in creating this decorative and dynamic rendering of an historically popular religious subject. Hampel diagonally divides the page between the earthly and the heavenly, the base and the faithful. He uses vibrant colors and washes to decorate the supernatural temptations, which appear in the forms of seductive femmes fatales and the puckish demon that pokes its head out of the bushes. To the right the Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ is delineated on the pure white background, an angelic projection of St. Anthony’s faith and the subject of his focus as he resists the temptations around him. In line with the Symbolist tradition Hampel melds together the religious and the mystic in this allegorical depiction to explore the spiritual state of being.