Artist brings Old World traditions to Vail |

Artist brings Old World traditions to Vail

Molly EppardArt in Public Places Spotlight Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily/Art in Public PlacesVail artists and ski instructors Horst Essl and Jean Richmond used the artistic technique known as sgraffito - hand carved stucco design - on various building facades in Vail, including Hotel-Gasthof Gramshammer, Tyrolean Inn and Village Center.

VAIL, Colorado -Vail artists and Vail ski instructors Horst Essl and Jean Richmond completed the substantial mural on the exterior of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard during the summer of 2009; however, their work has adorned buildings throughout Vail for many years.Essl and his wife and artistic partner, Richmond, came to Vail during the 1970s to be ski instructors and during the summer months they worked as artists. Honing his trade as a trained artist from his native Austria, he created many murals, frescos and tromp l’oeil (“to trick the eye”) paintings for the exteriors and interiors of private homes and commercial buildings. Essl and Richmond’s work was already prevalent and in demand in the Lake Tahoe area, where they resided. Upon their move to Vail, they would bring this Old World trade and introduce the art of sgraffito to this new ski community.Sgraffito, meaning “scratched” in Italian, is an artistic technique used to enhance the facades of buildings. It was introduced in Germany during the 16th century by Renaissance artisans as a process for embellishing decorative motifs, designs and moldings on buildings. It became very popular in areas of Bavaria, Northern Italy and Austria. This laborious art form is achieved by applying layer upon layer of lime stucco. The nature of the medium requires the artist to work continuously while the stucco is still wet, literally working around-the-clock. Entirely carved by hand, different colored plasters are used to create the depth and dimension in the work which is revealed once the stucco is incised.Their first commercial project in Vail was in 1989 when they created the landscape scene of the bighorn sheep with a mountainous background on the facade of the Tyrolean Inn. In 1998 they were commissioned by the Hotel-Gasthof Gramshammer. They created the lettering, window moldings, Austrian eagle and coat of arms in sgraffito, as well as other decorative work for this landmark hotel in Vail Village. “The sgraffito added to the European style of the hotel in time for the 1999 World Cup Championships,” said Sheika Gramshammer. Above the main entrance to the hotel, Essl painted a floral mural reminiscent of designs common in Alpine lodges. He also painted some interior doors within the hotel.In 2003 they completed the circular signs on the eastern and western facades of the Village Center Shops & Restaurants. They were also commissioned to make a work of art for the lower portion of the western facing wall of the Village Center building. They created a work using a combination of tromp l’oeil with sgraffito. It is a playful image of a young girl opening a gate while walking two dogs, on what would otherwise be a static wall.In 1994 Essl was honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for his conservation of the interior of the Eureka Opera House in Nevada. The fine art of sgraffito is becoming a lost trade. To have the work of Essl and Richmond present throughout Vail is indeed a treasure to be preserved.Join Art in Public Places for a free guided tour of the Vail Village and its art collection Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at the Vail Village Visitor Information Center. Visit for a calendar of remaining tours.The Vail Daily is running weekly spotlights on public art in Vail over the next few months. Molly Eppard is Vail’s art in public places coordinator

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