"Birkengruppe vor rotem Haus (Cluster of Birch Trees in Front of Red House)", undated
Oil on cardboard
17.72 x 25.59 in / framed 24.8 x 32.68 in
Inscribed bottom left "2.9.6"
Signed bottom right "F. Overbeck"
Expertise G. Overbeck (granddaughter), August 6, 2015
Freunde des Overbeck-Museums, Bremen 2010
Cat. Rais. Fritz Overbeck - Ölstudien auf Karton
W3 (295), p.9 with plate
- with craftsman's frame -
Über das Werk
Fritz Overbeck was the quintessential landscape painter. Even during his student days at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art from 1889 bis 1892 he devoted himself to the representation of landscapes. But it was during the so-called Worpsweder years from 1894 to 1905, that he finally became the painter we know and admire today. Overbeck felt a profound affinity to the surrounding natural world of Lower Saxony, with its meadows and fields, the Teufelsmoor and its intensive colours, dramatic cloud formations, the unerringly straight canals, and the delicate, knotted birch trees and moor cottages nestling in the plains.
However, he soon turned his back on the efficient, carefully composed academic landscape art of his teachers' generation, and ventured out into the natural environment to paint en plein air. Together with his Worpsweder artist friends, he developed new aspects of landscape painting, characterised by the absence of human figures and a vanishing point, together with almost arbitrarily chosen, emphatically casual details of the pictorial motif.
This present "Clump of Birch Trees in Front of Red House" combines these compositional features in a typical Worpsweder landscape scene, and with a rapid painting and relaxed brush technique evocatively captures the greenish-brown tonality of the Teufelsmoor. In the foreground, arranged in a rhythmic series parallel to the surface plane, is a clump of birch trees - delicate young saplings, together with gnarled old trunks; and further behind, almost obscured by the dominant cluster of trees, one discovers the red house. These are the typical "cropped" trees, featuring so frequently in Overbeck's oeuvre, which the artist regards as the fruits of his Worpsweder painting studies. "However, one can see in the birches", remarked Rainer Maria Rilke appositely in his famous Worpswede monograph, "that they have grown in the teeth of the prevailing winds, and bear witness to the rigours of hundreds of stormy days and nights. One continually finds them in his work, these over-long birch trees, shaped by the force of the wind to which they have succumbed, and over and above which they have ultimately grown in the silent summer days."