Schwarzwaldhäuser in Landschaft

Almost no other region in Germany is as famous as the Black Forest. It is known for its dark woods, abundant waters, and people who, though rooted in tradition, live their lives open to the world and oriented to the future. In the 19th century, many artists were inspired by life in the Black Forest and made their homes there or in the cities on its periphery. Their depictions tell of the people of the Black Forest and the beauty of nature. With their works, these artists were able to awaken new feeling for home; yet the image of the Black Forest they created was not comprehensive, but rather selective and often romanticizing, a picture that continues to shape “our” image of the region to this day.


From a geological perspective, the Black Forest is an old mountain range – much older, for example, than the Alps. The hilltops in the Black Forest are generally level and rounded; toward the Rhine valley, however, the mountains descend steeply, with waterways cutting through the deep valleys between them. To the east a high plateau, the so-called Baar, extends all the way to the Swabian Alb. From a bird’s-eye perspective, the landscape unfolds as a series of gently rolling hills whose vast expanse has inspired many artists. Painters like Hermann Dischler and Karl Hauptmann ventured forth into the landscape with their palettes, seeking the best vantage point for a panoramic view of the Black Forest.

Foto: Axel Killian

Hermann Dischler (1866 - 1935)

Hermann Dischler was a master pupil of Gustav Schönleber (1851–1917) at the Baden Grand Ducal Art School in Karlsruhe. From 1908 on, he worked at his "Künstlerhaus" ("Artist’s House") in Hinterzarten, where he also exhibited. His preference for snowy winter landscapes in the Black Forest earned him the nickname "Schneemaler" ("snow painter"). Dischler’s works are notable for their precise rendering of nature; beginning in the late 19th century, he painted from his own photographs, which he transferred to his canvases by means of projection. Dischler was chair of the “Breisgau Five” artists’ association and helped found the exhibition society "Die Schwarzwälder" ("The Black Foresters") in 1926.

Foto: Axel Killian


The abundance of water in the Black Forest is due to the frequent rain; precipitation levels there are significantly higher than in other regions of Germany. In the winter, this moisture falls primarily as snow. In earlier times, many Black Forest farmsteads were cut off from the outside world for months on end. High levels of precipitation also mean that the weather in the Black Forest is often inclement. Painters like Fritz Reiss or Friedrich Kallmorgen were especially fascinated by the dark clouds, rain, and wind and captured these moods in their paintings. Many of their works show seemingly abandoned Black Forest houses; here, the loneliness of the inhabitants in the wide expanse of nature serves as artistic inspiration.

Franz Xaver Gräßel (1861 - 1948)

The genre painter Franz Xaver Gräßel studied portrait and genre painting at the Baden Grand Ducal Art School in Karlsruhe from 1878 to 1884; beginning in 1886, he also studied with the history painter Wilhelm von Lindenschmit (1829–1895) at the academy in Munich. From 1891 to 1893, Gräßel was active in the artists’ colony in Gutach and painted genre pictures of Black Forest peasants there as well as in his hometown of Obersasbach. From 1901 on he lived in Emmering, where he served as honorary chair of the Fürstenfeldbruck artists’ association, founded in 1924. Gräßel’s specialization in animal motifs - ducks, geese, and chickens, which he drew from life and then painted in oil in the studio - earned him the nickname "Entenmaler" ("duck painter").


The early 19th century saw the awakening of an interest in nature, and its beauty found an echo in literature and art. At first, however, the Black Forest was not an appealing destination for tourists, since large portions had been deforested and were dominated by bare hilltops and desolate landscapes. Only in the second half of the 19th century was the beauty of the Black Forest rediscovered in the wake of successful reforestation and the opening of the first railroad lines. The Black Forest Railway, which provided access to the Kinzig and Gutach valleys, was especially important in this regard. Among those who made use of it was the painter Wilhelm Hasemann, who first came to Gutach in 1880 and captured a romantic view of the Black Forest in his images.

Foto: Axel Killian

Hans Thoma (1839 - 1924)

Hans Thoma grew up in the Black Forest. After short apprenticeships in lithography and house painting in Basel, he broke off his training with the clock shield painter Johann Baptist Laule in Furtwangen for lack of funds. With the help of a stipend, he studied in Karlsruhe from 1859 to 1866. Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), whom he encountered in Paris in 1868, had a major influence on him. His artistic breakthrough came late, at a special exhibition of the art association of Munich. In 1899 he was appointed director of the grand ducal painting gallery in Karlsruhe and professor of landscape painting at the academy. Though he always maintained a connection to his hometown of Bernau, Thoma did not wish to be known as a "Black Forest painter."


The inhabitants of the Black Forest could not live exclusively from farming. The harsh winters and steep mountains were often suited only for animal husbandry. The abundance of wood encouraged the early development of the glass-making industry; the wood charcoal necessary for the production of glass could be taken from the surrounding forests, resulting in the deforestation of large sections of the Black Forest.

During the long winters the people in the Black Forest pursued cottage industries, fabricating numerous products including brushes, straw hats, and reverse glass painting. Clocks, too, were initially produced in this way, but soon came to be made by specialized workshops. The makers themselves usually organized the sale of their products, sending peddlers into the cities with the finished goods. Early manufacture by hand often led to the founding of highly specialized companies that now sell their high-tech products worldwide.

Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich Hasemann (1850 - 1913)

After an apprenticeship as a locksmith and machinist, Wilhelm Gustav Friedrich Hasemann studied painting in Berlin and Weimar and subsequently worked as an illustrator. He came to Gutach in the Black Forest for the first time in 1880 to create illustrations for Berthold Auerbach’s novel "Lorle, die Frau Professorin" ("The Professor’s Wife"). From 1880 to 1882, Hasemann continued his studies in Karlsruhe and settled in Gutach. Many other painters moved there as well, and the Gutach artists’ colony was founded. The popular image of the Black Forest was shaped by Hasemann’s genre scenes of rural traditions; in the late 19th century, his postcard series of Black Forest motifs made the traditional costume of Gutach and its headdress, the "Bollenhut," famous  throughout the world.

Foto: Axel Killian


In the Black Forest, as in many mountainous regions of Europe, traditions and customs play an important role to this day. A variety of traditional costumes and crowns, or "Schäppel," are worn in almost every village. But tradition also involved strict rules, and marriages were often arranged even into the 19th century. Religion played a major role in the everyday lives of people. The Black Forest was primarily Catholic, but there were also Protestant communities on the border of Württemberg, including Gutach on the Black Forest Railway. In Gutach and three other villages, tradition called for unmarried women to wear a headdress known as the "Bollenhut." With their depictions of this custom, artists ensured that today, the “Bollenhut” serves as a symbol and trademark of the Black Forest.

Johann Baptist Kirner (1806 - 1866)

Johann Baptist Kirner initially followed in the craft tradition of his family and was apprenticed to a carriage painter in Freiburg and a decorative painter in Villingen. His brother, the artist Lukas Kirner, supported his studies in history painting at the art school in Augsburg, while a grand ducal stipend enabled him to attend the academy in Munich from 1824 to 1829. In the 1830s, Kirner received a travel stipend and went to Naples and Rome, where he shared a studio with Franz Xaver Winterhalter. In 1839 he was appointed court painter of Baden. Kirner’s genre paintings frequently include humorous and caricature-like details.

Wilhelm Hasemann illustrates here two scenes from the story "Der Vogt auf Mühlstein" by Heinrich Hansjakob. Magdalena, the bailiff's daughter, prays at the crucifix near her parents' farm.
A marriage was arranged for her with an older, wealthy man, although she loves a penniless boy. At the front of the bridal procession Magdalena can be seen in traditional costume.


Almost no other landscape shows a closer connection between architecture and nature than the Black Forest. The Black Forest house is distinctive: its architecture serves to represent the landscape, for it is adapted to its natural environment. The low-hanging roof protects the house from snow, while the people and livestock usually share the same building in order to take advantage of the animals’ warmth. When Black Forest farmhouses are built on a slope, an entrance leads directly from the side of the mountain into the large attic barn. At the same time, however, there are numerous regional variations and different types of houses. More than almost any other landscape, the Black Forest inspired artists to intensively study the houses of its inhabitants and depict them in paintings.

Karl Schuster  (1854 - 1925)

The son of the mayor of Freiburg, Karl Schuster initially studied architecture at the technical academy in Karlsruhe. In 1883 he began studying with Gustav Schönleber (1851–1917) at the Baden Grand Ducal Art School. He was a member of the "Breisgau Five" artists’ group founded in Freiburg. Schuster’s previous education as an architect also found expression in his artistic oeuvre, where he recorded architectural details with great accuracy in his pictures. His motifs include landscapes and chapels in the Black Forest, as well as city and harbor views painted during his travels to northern Italy and the Netherlands. He bequeathed his estate to the Augustinermuseum in Freiburg.


Portraits played an important role in the painting of the early 19th century, and not only for such prominent artists as Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Many regional painters produced realistic portraits of people from the Black Forest; their subjects included primarily successful craftsmen and tradespeople who commissioned selfconfident images of themselves. In the second half of the 19th century, artists began to be interested in people and their traditional forms of life. Their subjects were now frequently shown in traditional costumes, even when such clothing had long since ceased to be worn in everyday life.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805 - 1873)

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, who came from a peasant family, trained as an engraver and lithographer at the Herdersche unstinstitut in Freiburg. With the help of a grand ducal stipend, he went on to study at the academy in Munich. He worked at the court of Baden in Karlsruhe beginning in 1828, and after a study trip to Italy was appointed court painter in 1834. He achieved his breakthrough in Paris in 1837. From then on Winterhalter was the most sought-after portrait painter of the European nobility and received commissions from patrons including Napoleon III and Queen Victoria of England (1840–1901); he also painted the world-famous portrait of the Austrian empress "Sisi" (1837–1898). Throughout his entire life, the artist supported his family in the Black Forest.

Exhibition catalogue


Schwarzwald-Geschichten: Eine Ausstellung des Augustinermuseums, Städtische Museen Freiburg : Augustinermuseum in Freiburg i.Br., 19. April - 06. Oktober 2019 = Black Forest stories. Hrsg. von Tilmann von Stockhausen mit Beiträgen von Kathrin Fischer, Heinrich Schwendemann und Mirja Straub. Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag 2019.

The exhibition catalogue is available in the museum shop.