"Winterlandschaft (Winter Landscape)", 1942
Oil on canvas
22.05 x 29.13 in / framed 29.53 x 37.4 in
Signed bottom right, dated "O Modersohn 42"
Expertise Rainer Noeres, Otto Modersohn Museum, January 4, 2017
- with craftsman's frame -
Über das Werk
Until well into old age, Otto Modersohn remained a highly productive painter, seeking in his choice of motifs to capture the ever-shifting manifestations of the moor and depict the countryside surrounding Fischerhude. Since suffering a detached retina in his right eye in 1936, Otto Modersohn reserved his mornings exclusively for painting in his studio. The afternoons were spent wandering through the village armed with his sketchbook, preparing rapid sketches of anything which struck his eye, in a kind of short hand. The evening was then devoted to his "compositions", which he executed on used sheets of paper or old envelopes etc. with just a few strokes of charcoal, chalk or sanguine. He would then lay two or three of these compositional sketches to one side in order to paint them next morning. As in the case here: For the preliminary sketch possesses a different compositional structure, with the line of the horizon extending into the upper third of the canvas as if viewed from above. (cf. cat. OM-Zeichnungen p.250, no.166). In contrast to the painting: Otto Modersohn shifts the horizon towards the centre of the canvas. The road to Sagehorn - a village to west of Fischerhude with its own train station - is now seen from a lower vantage point; running right to left along a dark, tree-lined embankment, until it intersects with the horizon. The group of figures merely adumbrated in the composition is now featured here more prominently. Whether these three men in the snow are heading towards the far-off train station or to the more closely-situated village of Backsberg in order to warm themselves in the local inn over a mug of grog is left to the imagination of the viewer. Otto Modersohn conjures the atmosphere of a grey winter's day, shrouded under a canopy of low-lying clouds, peppered with a scattering of birds. The snow and the sheet of ice beneath it are slowly beginning to melt. The blue-green melt waters will soon have reached the apex of the bridge and are about to spill over and inundate the fields and the road. Otto Modersohn was blessed with the imagination to paint this scene faithfully from memory. All he had was the view from his studio window to serve as a source of inspiration for this evocative scene.Just seven years previously, on May 5, 1935, Otto Modersohn wrote in his diary "Conception - everything in the picture must stand in relation to everything else. […] This requires a keen sensibility for colour, form and technique. - I prefer the winter in Fischerhude to the summer."
"Modersohn's pictures are images of soul, motions of the soul. The winter (…) is not a season, but an expression of the soul." - observed Dr. Erich Franz in his speech to mark the opening of the exhibition of the artist's late works in the Otto-Modersohn Museum in Fischerhude on December 15, 2012.