Walter Moras stems from a family of knightly lineage from the Rhineland .
Moras' descendants were advocates and public servants in Cologne , and his grandfather was a tax collector in Doveren. In 1845 his father, Carl Joseph August Moras, moved to Berlin to work as a merchant. Shortly thereafter he met his bride, Anna Marianne Louise Werner, and they were married in 1847. As of 1854, August Moras is listed in the address books of Berlin , Neu-Kölln, Am Wasser 6-7 as “merchant, consignment and silk dealer.”
Walter Moras was born in Berlin on January 20 th , 1856. He was baptized on February 28 th in St. Markus church. Soon thereafter the family moved into a larger apartment in Wallstraße in the center of the Prussian capital. Business was going well. As of 1868, August Moras ran his business in Prinzenstraße and as of 1870 in Neanderstraße.
It seems evident that Anna Moras furthered her son's interest in the arts and painting. She was from a large family, which included a painter and owner of an artist's workshop, a genre painter, and two porcelain painters. Furthermore, there was a Royal actress and a theater inspector.
In Behrenstraße, near Neanderstraße, was the workshop of famous landscapist and naval painter Hermann Eschke (1823-1900), who also ran a successful art school there. Walter's parents spared neither trouble nor expense to allow their meanwhile grown son to take lessons there. Louis Douzette (1834-1924) had gone to the same school. Hermann Eschke and Douzette's paintings were handled as highlights of landscape painting at exhibitions of the Königliche Akademie der Künste zu Berlin . It is possible that Walter Moras took lessons together with Richard Eschke (1859-1944), the tutor's son only 3 years his junior.
Even though August Moras retired in 1873 and moved with wife Anna and son Walter into an apartment in Lankwitzer Straße in Berlin 's southwest, there was still enough funds to send the 18-year old Walter to study in Norway .
Norway was, at that time, a desired destination for Germans. The emperor vacationed there. Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen's plays took Germany 's stages. Edvard Grieg's music was played in every concert hall. The wild Norwegian landscape attracted more and more ainters from Germany . In Hermann Eschke's school a trip to Norway was practically a must. He himself painted there, as did Louis Douzette and later the young Richard Eschke.
Therefore it was not surprising that the first painting of the 20-year old Walter Moras, which was accepted by the critical jury of the Berliner Akademische Kunstausstellung, was called “Marine, norwegische Küste/ Norwegian coast.” From now, much to the delight of his parents, Moras was exhibited continuously at the Akademische Kunstausstellung. In 1884 he sold his painting “Mondnacht, Hafen von Amsterdam/Moonlit night, Port of Amsterdam .” In 1886 his painting “Mondschein, Motiv aus Anklam/ Moonlight, an Anklam motive” was sold.
By 1881, Walter Moras was registered as “naval painter” in his parent's apartment in Lankwitzer Straße. It was during this time that he met Ida Baluschek, who would later become his wife. She was born in 1860, the daughter of an engineer from Berlin . The newly-weds moved into an apartment in Königgrätzer Straße. On October 14 th 1883 , they had their son Otto Max Bruno Moras. Walter Moras now called himself a “landscapist and architecture painter” instead of a “naval painter.” Their financial situation must have been difficult, as their frequent moves indicate.
Walter Moras traveled frequently through Northern Germany as a plein-air painter. He visited Mecklenburg , Pommern, Rügen, and even East Prussia . Also, the surroundings of Berlin offered many motives.
His paintings “Kartoffelernte/ Potato harvest” and “ Abenddämmerung/ Dusk” became famous at the 1887 exhibition of the Königliche Akademie der Künste zu Berlin followed the next year by “Frühlingslandschaft/ Spring landscape,” “Ostseestrand/ Beach on the Baltic Sea,” and “Märkisches Dorf im Frühling/ Brandenburg village in the spring.” “Dorf Göhren auf Rügen/ The Göhren village on Rügen” even made it into the catalogue of the academy in 1890.
As of 1890, Walter Moras contributed to the noted exhibitions of the Kunstverein Bremen, e.g. with the painting “ Fischerdorf auf Rügen/ Fishing village on Rügen.” That same year he participated in the International Art Exhibition in Munich with his piece “Torfmoor in Ostpreußen/ Moss in East Prussia .”
Many of his very realistic landscapes stem from this fruitful period; “Märkische Landschaft mit Reisigsammlerin/ Brandenburg landscape with wood gatherer,“ “Gänsehirtin an der Dorfstraße/ Goose-girl by a village street,“ „Verschneite Dorflandschaft/ Snowy Village,“ “Abendfrieden, Auenlandschaft mit Windmühle im Mondenschein/ Evening calm, pastureland with wind mill in moonlight,“ “Winterabend/ Winter night,“ “Teichlandschaft mit Gehöft in der Abendsonne/ Pond with homestead in evening light,“ “Mecklenburger Küstenlandschaft/ Mecklenburg coast,” as well as the beautiful smaller formats “Darßer Fischerhäuser am Bodden/ Fishing houses at salt marsh“ and “Abendstimmung am Seeufer/ Evening light at the lakeside.“
Watercolors were not his strong suit, be he painted “Weite märkische Landschaft mit einem Pferdefuhrwerk auf der Landstraße/ Brandenburg landscape with horse and cart on country road,” “Fischerdorf/ Fishing village,” and “Birken im Herbst/ Birch trees in the fall” all in pastels.
In 1891, his father, August Moras died. His inheritance as well as an important business connection allowed Walter Moras to rent larger apartments in Gneisenau straße, at Waterlooufer and at Tempelhofer Ufer.
Between 1892 and 1894 famous art dealer Rudolph Lepke auctioned off 16 paintings and one watercolor by Walter Moras. Now there was enough money for a studio in Belle-Alliancestraße and a trip to Italy . The water color “Am Vierwaldstätter See in der Abenddämmerung/ The Vierwaldstätter See in dusk” as well as the oil paintings “Die Mühle bei Marburg/ The mill of Marburg,” “Schnee im Engadin/Snow in Engadin,” and “Ansicht von Verona an der Etsch/ View of Verona at Etsch” were the result.
But Walter Moras' decisive creative impulse came from Spreewald. A number of large format landscapes from the turn of the century earned him the nickname of Spreewald painter. Richard Eschke painted there too. The romantic Spreewald was easily accessible from Berlin and after vacationing there, high-quality paintings were popular memorabilia for the affluent bourgeoisie. The money from these sales earned Walter Moras a comfortable apartment in Potsdamer Straße where he lived until his death in 1925. In the summer he continued visiting the Spreewald. The photographer Magnus Brunkhorst became his friend and patron. The art gallery Brunkhorst in Lübben hosted a Spreewald exhibition with 14 paintings by Walter Moras. They sold well and thankfully survived wars and the depression in private hands.
Another lucky circumstance contributed to the fact that Walter Moras' work survived those times. In 1904 his younger cousin, the engineer Ferdinand Moras, came to Berlin from the Ruhr area. He founded a factory for apparatus engineering after World War I in Berlin . We can assume that Walter and Ferdinand Moras were in touch at the time. The success of the painter in Berlin resonated back home in the Rhenish area and opened up a market for new devotees of his art.
Thieme/Becker considers the years 1876 to 1910 his most productive period. While he stopped exhibiting, he still produced for a buyer's market. He made naturalistic woodland sceneries and atmospheric winter paintings; many motives he repeated with small adjustments. It was likely that he used photographs as references, as was common with the advent of photography with many landscapists at the time.
The snow on most of his large format works is now whiter and glows more than in earlier paintings. The woodland sceneries are more dreamy and detailed. A warm color palette adds distinctive allure. People are reduced to decoration. The large oil paintings are usually perfectly executed and elaborate in both perspective and composition. Walter Moras no longer paints what he sees, but what his buyers want. As a painter he is a traditionalist, the commercialization of his work though is modern.
World War I and the post-war times bring an end to art dealing. Despite the impending inflation, new opportunities open up for Walter Moras in 1920. He is still listed as an “artist” in Potsdamerstraße 121 in Berlin 's address book; even with a phone number. Nearby in Potsdamer Straße 122 a close co-worker of the late Rudolph Lepke (he passed away in 1904), Carl Krüger refounds “Lepkes Kunst- und Aktionshaus/ Lepke's art and auction.”
Taught by his father, Walter Moras' son follows in his footsteps. Meanwhile, Otto Max Bruno got married to Emma Ithner from Köslin in Pommern and moved into his own apartment in Bülowstraße in 1921, listed as “landscapist and hunt painter.” His paintings, winter landscapes and the Spreewald, could have easily been confused with his father's work, but they lacked the peculiar enchantment of Walter Moras' paintings. Bruno Moras was most likely able to capitalize on his father's legacy. He continues to live in the more expensive West of Berlin. In 1936 he moved to an apartment on Nollendorfplatz. He died there in 1939.
Walter Moras' paintings are to this day lively and delight collectors and devotees. This biography is an attempt to convey an image of the painter himself.