Nocturne des Alpes
Oil on canvas; signed; signed and labelled with title verso.
36 x 54 inches
Exhibited probably as Doldenhorn-Berner Oberland, The Society of Women Artists, 1935, no. 26
The scene is Oeschinen Lake, looking up at the Blumlisalp in the Bernese Oberland, where Hechle was climbing and painting around 1934. It was a fashionable place to summer: ‘The scenery here is wild and rugged, the great peaks of the Blumlisalp, the Doldenhorn, the Balmhorn, and the Altels tower skywards; in the lonely Gasternthal foaming glacial torrents dash down the cliff- side and the Oeschinen valley shelters a mountain lake whose glassy waters reflect as in a mirror the beauty of the Blumlisalp above’ (The Sphere, 22 July 1933).
Hechle’s obituary in The Times, 20th of April 1939, read:‘Gifted with imagination and a good sense of design, she broke away from the usual rather sentimental treatment of mountains in favour of a simplified statement with the rhythms of structure strongly accentuated so that the effect of great scale was preserved even in a small picture’.
Hechle was born at Brassington Hall, the home of her uncle, in the Peak District of Derbyshire, an area famous for its climbing tradition. She became an experienced climber and scrambler, having mastered several routes in the Alps, and was a stalwart of the Ladies Alpine Club, where she gave a lecture in 1928 in which she issued ‘some valuable practical directions, i.e. that the best place from which to draw one mountain is from half way up another’ (Ladies Alpine Club Yearbook, 1929, p 40). Hechle’s fanciful work as an illustrator is populated by fairies and spirits, and there is an almost animist dimension to her paintings of mountains, that she painted on the spot at altitude (this painting is on a most unusual folding stretcher, for ease of carriage).