Franz von Defregger, 1872
PAINTING is perhaps somewhat of a rare accomplishment among Alpine peoples. Technical training, such as is required even by a beginner, is difficult to obtain; besides, paints, brushes, and canvas are expensive, — a serious, and sometimes a final consideration, among mountaineers.
As a matter of fact, the art impulse in the Alps generally turns to wood-carving. Every mountaineer has a knife in his pocket, and plenty of time on his hands, while he is tending the cattle in the uplands, or during long winter evenings. Nor is there any lack of wood to be had for the cutting.
It is doubtful, therefore, whether Defregger would ever have had a chance to paint those delightful pictures of Tyrolese life and history, had not his father been a man of some means.
The painter was born on April 30, 1835, on the family farm, called the Ederhof, in the parish of Dolsach, near Lienz, in the Pusterthal. Up to the age of fifteen, he herded his father's cattle and horses on the mountain pastures. During spare moments he amused himself by drawing and carving animals, according to the abundance of models constantly before him.
Thus early did he begin to sharpen his powers of observation, and to acquire that prodigious memory for form, which has always distinguished him. His talent does not seem to have been inherited, but to have asserted itself spontaneously, under favouring conditions. He was thrown from infancy into close contact with the life of all outdoors, and beauties of outline and colour.
At all events, the boy's artistic progress was not retarded by any sordid struggle for existence.
After his father's death, Defregger sold the Ederhof, and, with the proceeds, sallied forth into the world, to become a painter. Surely no youth ever chose his life-work with less hesitation.
➔ William Denison McCrackan The fair land Tyrol, (1905)