Adalbert Stifter, Wiener Vorstadthäuser, painting, 1839 (Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna)
Stifter, Adalbert, b. Horní-Planá, Czech Republic (then Oberplan), Oct. 23, 1805, d. Linz (Upper Austria), Jan. 28, 1868, writer, painter, educator. Son of a linen weaver and flax merchant; grew up in the beautiful landscape of the Bohemian Forest, the particular charm of which influenced his work throughout his life. After the fatal accident of his father 1817 the family encountered many difficulties, which led to a closer relationship between S. and his grandfather, who enabled him to attend the Kremsmünster abbey school 1818. There he discovered his enthusiasm for literature, natural sciences and especially for painting. 1826 went to Vienna to study law at university, but broke off his studies 1830. 1837 married Amalie Mohaupt (1811-1883), milliner and daughter of a military officer. Struggled along as lecturer and tutor; publications in magazines and almanacs eventually brought him the longed-for recognition as a writer around 1840. 1848 moved to Linz and was appointed school inspector for primary schools in Upper Austria 1850. His idealistic advocacy of various educational reforms were frustrated by his opponents in the educational authority, which deprived him of his function as inspector of the secondary school "Linzer Realschule" 1856. Was embittered by financial difficulties and disappointment about his childless marriage. 1863 fell ill with cirrhosis of the liver, which finally forced him into retirement 1865.
S. called his early stories ´essays´ ("Der Condor", 1840; "Das Haidedorf", 1840; "Die Mappe meines Urgroßvaters", 1841; "Der Hochwald", 1842; "Brigitta", 1843); they were collectively published in six vols. (1844-1850); in a broad outline they reflect his view of nature and human beings, which was determined by humanitarianism and traditional educational ideals and which aimed at a poetic but scientific perception of reality. S. finally articulated these principles in the preface to his collection "Bunte Steine" (1853), in which he defined what he called the ´law of gentleness´ ("sanftes Gesetz"): According to S., it has a permanent influence on all natural and social phenomena and is responsible for the priority of lasting and silently working effects over sudden changes and upheavals, "evolution always anticipates revolution". The Christmas story "Bergkristall" (1845) has become the best known tale out of "Bunte Steine". With his two great narrative stories "Der Nachsommer" (3 vols., 1857) and "Witiko" (3 vols., 1865-1867) he deliberately created a contrast to the contemporary novel of poetic realism, taking up Goethe´s conception of art and education. S.´s story "Der Nachsommer" forms a deliberate counterpoint to Goethe´s novel "Die Wahlverwandtschaften" and describes the course of a merchant´s son´s education and how he gradually acquires all characteristic features necessary for representing human dignity. "Witiko", set in Bohemia in the 12th century, is an attempt to show, by means of a historical example, that order and moral law cannot be prevented from being generally accepted even on a governmental level. his work was partly misunderstood or disapproved of by contemporary critics (e.g. F. Hebbel) and only found acceptance with some delay.
Adalbert Stifter, photo
Further works: stories: Nachkommenschaften, 1864; Der Kuß von Sentze, 1866; Der fromme Spruch, 1869. - Sketches: Wien und die Wiener in Bildern aus dem Leben, 1844. - Essays: Die Landschule, 1849; Über den geschnitzten Hochaltar in der Kirche zu Kefermarkt, 1853. - Editions: Briefe, ed. by J. Aprent, 3 vols., 1869; Hist.-krit. Ausgabe. sämtl. Werke, ed. by A. Sauer et al., 24 vols., 1901-1960; Gesammelte Werke, ed. by M. Stefl, 6 vols., 1939-1954; Unveröffentlichtes von A. S., eg. by M. v. Sellner and L. Franz, 1940; Kulturpolit. Aufsätze, ed. by W. Reich, 1948; Das erzählerische Werk, ed. by M. Gerken and F. Krökel, 5 vols., 1949-1954; Die Schulakten A. S., ed. by K. Vancsa, 1955; Gesammelte Werke, ed. by K. Steffen, 14 vols., 1967-1972; Werke und Briefe. Hist.-krit. Gesamtausgabe, ed. by A. Doppler and W. Frühwald, 1978ff.
Literature: bibliography: E. Eisenmeier, A. S. Bibliographie, 1964 (with sequels). - Complete depictions: M. Selge, A. S. Poesie aus dem Geist der Naturwiss., 1976; U. Naumann, A. S., 1979; M. and E. Swales, A. S. A Critical Study, 1984; F. Baumer, A. S., 1989; A. Doppler, A. S. Landschaft, Schicksal und Geschichte, 1991; W. Matz, A. S. oder Diese fürchterliche Wendung der Dinge, 1995. - Documentation: A. S. Schrecklich schöne Welt, ed. by J. Lachinger and M. Sturm, 1990. - Research reports: A. S. Schrecklich schöne Welt. Beiträge des internat. Kolloquiums zur A.-S.-Ausstellung Univ. Antwerpen 1993, ed. by R. Duhamel et al., 1994; H. Laufhütte (ed.), A. S. Neue Zugänge zu seinem Werk, 1996.