Hayd, Karl (1882-1945)

Hayd, Karl (1882-1945)

Karl Hayd was an extremely accomplished Austrian artist who covered a wide range of subjects in his art over the course of his lifetime. Not applying himself to any one style or movement, Hayd was able to explore the psychological and physical impact of war on his homeland, as well as celebrate Austria’s natural beauty.

In his early years, Hayd first trained as an architect, working for a year as a mason. This training enabled him to depict buildings in a compositionally sound manner. His views of Austrian cities such as Linz capture the towering churches looming over the streets with chimney-topped roofs. Indeed, Hayd became well-known in Austria for his documentations of cities, which became points of reference to chart the changes incurred through the First World War.

Hayd also showed an interest for rural life and capturing the beauteous nature of the Austrian countryside. In these works, there is a vivacious use of quick brushstrokes and effective application of colour. The church at Traunkirchen is draped in a voluminous, verdant spread of foliage. The mountain behind looms in various shades of grey, present and yet not dominating the vibrant colours which capture the foreground. As much as his contemporaries appreciated his documentation of the cities, they too appreciated his idyllic presentations of country life.

Hayd was able to cultivate an interest for varying elements of life in Austria from a young age. His father was a lieutenant in the army, and as a result, the family travelled often to wherever the army posted them. Such travels cultivated an appreciation of his homeland and fuelled his natural artistic tendencies. Indeed, Hayd himself served a volunteer year in the Austrian-Hungary army before he turned his attention full-time towards painting.

Hayd attended both the prestigious Academies of art in Vienna and Prague, and indeed, from this point onwards became very much involved with artistic life in Austria. He was a member of many Austrian art societies, such as the Albrecht Dürer Association and the Upper Austria Art Association. He even founded his own artistic group, ‘Der Ring,’ with other prominent Austrian thinkers and artists. These enabled him to exhibit widely and frequently and build a reputation. His first-rate art training also enabled him to cover a range of styles and mediums, from watercolours to lithographs. Hayd was a flexible artist, able to turn his hand to various professions. He worked for a time as a poster and book illustrator, his ability to combine technical accuracy with artistic reverie appealing.

It is Hayd’s war paintings which are his most noted contribution to Austrian art, however. During the First World War, Hayd worked on the Galician front, often depicting soldiers in moments of action. They capture dynamic poses as they prepare to make a charge for the enemy or discharge their weapons. In many, the soldiers’ faces are blurred, lacking the definition to assign them to any living person. Instead, they become representative figures to whom the viewer might be able to relate, imagining a relative or loved one. They embrace the consuming power of war as something that becomes familiar to everyone.

Depicting war its psychological and physical consequences became a popular theme in art in the first half of the 20th-Century, marred as it was by two World Wars. Indeed, Hayd had struck up a friendship with a prominent Austrian artist who became well-known for his psychological explorations in his art, Egon Schiele (1890-1918). Schiele is now infamous for his expressionist works of figures with grotesquely shaped limbs. During these years, Hayd did not paint with such experimentation, however a later work, created during the Second World War, is more evocative of Schiele’s tortured oeuvre.

‘Gas-death-attack over Linz’ depicts the flying bomb squad of the enemy wreaking havoc. A plane is represented through a skeleton, legs spread like the wings of a plane, breathing fire from its gaping mouth. Here, the vibrant, heady colours Hayd usually saved for the glorious views of rural Vienna become the fire of death which consumes Linz. A radiant blue sky becomes swallowed by thick clouds rolling in on the wings of the bomber planes. Hayd demonstrates an inversion of his usual use of colour, emphasising the psychological impact of war upon Hayd and his work.

Never did Hayd depict war with any sort of reverence for heroics. This he saved for the natural beauties of his homeland. War, for him, was the looming presence of death, with unfortunately featured so much throughout his life, and in his works.


Born in Hainburg an der Donau, Austria.


Volunteered in the Tyrolean Rifle Regiment of the Austrian-Hungary army in Innsbruch, Austria.


Studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.


Studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Prague.


Undertook a study trip to Venice, Dalmatia, and Bosnia.


Became a member of the Albrecht Dürer Association.


Moved to Vienna. Began career as a freelance artist. Exhibited his work for the first time.


Joined the Upper Austrian Art Association.


Married Linz Hedwig Kutschera.


Died in Linz, Austria.

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