"Winterabend (Fischerhuder Kirche) (A Winter's Evening (Fischerhuder Church))", 1940
Oil on canvas
22.05 x 29.13 in / framed 29.53 x 36.61 in
Signed bottom right, dated "O Modersohn 40"
Expertise Rainer Noeres, January 30, 2016,
Otto Modersohn Museum, Fischerhude
- with craftsman's frame -
Über das Werk
In 1940, three years before his death, Otto Modersohn completed "A Winter's Evening" - a painting executed in the typically muted, almost lucid palette of his late works. The landscape presents itself in the dusky light of evening, the fields and paths, trees, walls and rooftops are blanketed with snow, which seems to swallow every muffled sound. The pink grey clouds presage fresh snow fall.With consummate artistry,the Modersohn has captured the still, melancholic atmosphere of a wintry day shortly before the onset of darkness. The essential appeal of this painting lies not only in its palette, but also in the choice of motif and the overall composition. To the right we see the village church of Fischerhuder, together with the small cemetery and the Heimathaus to the left - an ensemble of buildings which can still be found in the centre of the locality. Today it is flanked by a street called Cato Bontjes van Beek-Weg - named after the eponymous member of the German resistance, a niece of Otto Modersohn, who fought against the National Socialists and who was executed in 1943 in Berlin-Plötzensee.
The Heimathaus - a rural mansion with a homely thatched half-hipped roof was built in 1590, which was extended to its current size in 1768 - was originally in the possession of the old-established and prosperous Tietjen family. Today its houses the Fischerhuder Heimat Museum. The Liebfrauenkirche was built on the site of an old chapel in the Biedermeier style in 1841, to which a spire was added in 1864 and followed by an apsis, replete with arched windows in 1886. Characteristic is the enclosure of the cemetery with 39 Baroque grave stones which were retrieved from the neighbouring district of Wilstedt after the church was built, and integrated into the wall.
As Otto Modersohn himself remarked, during his latter years his main objective was to capture the "surmised" and the "intimated". Consequently in his final creative phase he worked exclusively in his studio; either from memory or from his compositional drawings and sketch book - as exemplified in this picture, whose compositional cohesion derives from the successful fusion of architectural and landscape elements. Whereas the delicate network of branches of the great deciduous tree both to the left and in the background soar almost weightlessly into the evening sky, the two conifers in the centre, with their heavy, snow-laden branches, form the transition to the strident cubic architecture of the church. As the central perspective element of the canvas, the village street winds sinuously from the foreground into the depths of the painting. And, as so often in the work of this passionate landscape artist, the human figure is only discernible as a small silhouette. "Conception", emphasised the painter in 1935, "Everything in the painting must correlate to everything else. The truth of nature alone is nothing in art. Form and colour must stimulate and be personal."