"Auf der Hamme (On the Hamme)", 1907
Oil on cardboard
17.72 x 24.41 in / framed 25.2 x 31.89 in
Über das Werk
Born in 1877, Walter Bertelsmann first took art lessons in 1898/99 from Wilhelm Otto in Bremen, before moving to Worpswede in 1902 to study under Hans am Ende, and accordingly can be ascribed to the second generation of the artists' colony. Until his death on February 11, 1963, he lived and worked in the village on the moor, and the countryside surrounding Worpswede became the principal theme of his painting. The work "On the Hamme" depicts a row of peat barges, a typical feature of the Teufelsmoor or Devil's Bog region. The moor farmers used to travel in these so-called "halb-hunt" barges (the unit of measurement of a half a "hunt" was the equivalent of 50 baskets of peat), which since the beginning of the colonisation of the moor remained the sole means of transport in this marshy moor region from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century. These peat barges were navigated by one person, who punted, towed and sailed sometimes for several days in their wooden oak vessels to transport the freshly cut peat to Bremen and the local area for use as heating fuel. Impregnated with tar, the sails were always coloured brown. Bertelsmann shows the barges moored on the banks rather than focusing on the arduous work of the peat farmers. Exuding a peaceful ambiance, the composition is dominated by the rigid vertical and horizontal structures. The course of the river serves as the diagonal which animates the pictorial space. Together with the sparse compositional scheme, the dense palette also lends the work an air of tranquillity and solidity, and Bertelsmann succeeds in combining the peat barges and the scenic aspects through his subtle transitions of colour.