Fritz Reiss

In the Hotzenwald, um 1910

About the object

A grey, leaden sky stretches out across the scene. There isn't a soul to be seen. The painting exemplifies the simple, rustic life of many farming families in the Hotzenwald area. The living area, stable and barn are situated directly next to each other beneath the very low, thatched roof of a typical »Hotzenhaus«.
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A cloud-filled sky rendered in the most variegated shades of gray extends over the landscape. No humans are visible in this painting; the thatched house, its roof reaching to the ground, permits no gaze into the interior, as if the inhabitants had closed themselves off from the cold and from the harsh autumn wind sweeping across the slope. The wind bends the trees and has already robbed them of their leaves; the only living beings in the picture are the pigs in the foreground, who search for food in the barren yard, further underscoring the scene’s impoverished mood. A paltry board fence encloses the unadorned hut and pig yard. A winding path, so narrow it is almost obscured by the green of the adjoining meadow, leads to another farmstead in the background. This oil painting by Fritz Reiss differs strikingly from the frequently romanticized scenes of rural life in the Black Forest. Like Hermann Dischler, Reiss was a member of the artists’ group known as the “Breisgau Five,” founded in 1899. On the one hand, his artistic oeuvre includes humorous depictions of Black Forest customs and practices; on the other, he often adopted a socially critical approach to his subject matter-as in this painting. The scene depicted here is representative of the fate of many of the poorest farmers in the Hotzenwald, the southernmost and rainiest part of the Black Forest. In the typical houses known as “Hotzenhäuser,” the family dwelling, stalls, and barn were all united under one roof. For this reason, pigs were either not bred at all or were kept in separate buildings. In the southern Black Forest, it was long customary to divide up the property between the heirs, a practice that often resulted in insufficient agricultural holdings to support a family. If they were unable to make ends meet by means of a cottage industry or craft, they were forced to leave their land. LAURA BERGANDER (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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