Alfred S. Wall
American 19th Century Painter
Alfred S. Wall was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania and became a well-respected and influential painter, critic and restorer in Pittsburgh. He was a partner in the J.J. Gillespie Gallery, the oldest and most respected art establishment in the city. Gillespie's was also the place for artists of the Scalp Level School, led by the painter George Hetzel, to congregate. Later, Wall became a founder of the Art Society of Pittsburgh and a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Art Fund. Wall made summer excursions to Scalp Level (near Johnstown, Pennsylvania) where he painted directly from nature alongside other artists of the group. His attention to minute details reveals the influence of his brother, William Coventry Wall, as well as to the Barbizon School of artists in France who painted wooded interiors and celebrated nature at a time when it was threatened by industrialism. This winter scene is an unusual subject in that the artists tended to depict spring, summer and autumn since they worked out-of-doors. The scene shows a mill in winter with all the lively activity of a small community - boys sled riding, men stopping along the path to talk, and the warm domesticity offered by the tidy little mill with its chimney showing the smoke of a warm hearth. The tree trunk in the foreground and those peppered throughout the forest floor show the encroachment of civilization and industry upon the great wilderness beyond.