Franz Xaver Gräßel

Meadow Slope (Lautenbach), 1888

About the object

In places where the cultural landscape is no longer tended, nature regains its foothold: the rudimentary fence has partially collapsed, the apple tree doesn't appear to have been pruned for a long time and bears little fruit. A few desultory wooden planks act as a makeshift walkway across the grassy slope.
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Franz Gräßel was a member of the Gutach artists’ colony, a group founded by Wilhelm Hasemann. Gräßel frequently visited the town of Gutach in the Black Forest, where he sought inspiration for his work in the surrounding area. As an inscription on the painting indicates, the artist found the motif for this scene in the town of Lautenbach near Offenburg, at the edge of the central Black Forest. This transitional zone between the broad, flat Rhine valley and the mountains of the Black Forest is filled with fertile, rolling hills where fruit and wine are cultivated. Here Gräßel adopts an almost impressionistic style to present an unusual, even disconcerting view of nature. The painting shows a sloping meadow; across the foreground runs a stream that has dug itself into the ground. A simple wooden board lying over the stream is probably meant to serve as a bridge. The center of the painting is occupied by a gnarled old apple tree. Clearly, it has not been pruned for years: it bears only a few apples, and many of its branches are withered. A wooden plank fence, partially collapsed, passes in front of the tree, while wooded slopes are visible in the background. In this picture, Gräßel addresses the theme of transience. Where a cultivated landscape is no longer cared for, nature reclaims her terrain. However, the image also conveys the impression of neglect: already in the late 19th century, some agricultural areas of the Black Forest were no longer worked due to insufficient yields or the migration of the inhabitants to the city. Today, the problem is even more acute: increasingly, only state subsidies can induce farmers to cultivate the rich landscape of the Black Forest. When pastures are not worked, they become overgrown and karstic within a short period of time. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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Augustinermuseum Freiburg: Black Forest. Suwon 2016. 4. 9., S. 123 Seiten.

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