- (1805–1868)Primarily known as a masterful poetic realist, Stifter was also a painter and pedagogue. Born in the wooded area that reaches from Upper Austria into the Czech Republic, his family was in the flax and linen trade. The household fell into economic difficulties following the death of Stifter’s father in 1817. His young son grew very close to his grandfather, who made it possible for him to attend a Latin school in Kremsmünster that introduced him to literature and science. Stifter went on to the University of Vienna in 1826, where he studied law and natural science— though he took no degrees. Leaving the university in 1830, he worked as a private tutor in the household of Imperial Chancellor Metternich, among others. In 1837, he married.By 1840, Stifter had gained some recognition for his poetry and was about to write some of his most important fiction but could hardly support himself and his wife with such earnings. The Revolutions of 1848 left Stifter a vigorous advocate of public education as the basis of a morally unified and free civic society. In that year he moved to Linz, where, in 1850, he became the provincial supervisor of primary schools. His idealism brought him into conflict with the authorities, who denied him a higher position. His last years were spent in growing unhappiness over his childless marriage, financial difficulties, and finally, the onset of liver cancer. Deeply depressed, he tried to commit suicide before he succumbed to the disease. Stifter saw both his literary and pictorial work as exemplars of what he called the gentle law (Sanfte Gesetz). As defined in the preface to Many-Colored Stones (Bunte Steine, 1853), a collection of the author’s writings, this principle stressed the harmony between nature and man, the enduring over the temporary, and change through quiet inward evolution rather than explosive interaction with the environment. His prose is characterized by its measured pace and painstaking descriptive language. Although Stifter did not enjoy great critical acclaim in his own time, modern scholars have assigned him a prominent place in the Austrian literary canon.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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