Fritz Reiss

Lonely Black Forest Farm, undatiert

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One of Reiss' salient themes in his paintings was the extent to which people's lives depended on the forces of nature. The isolated farmhouse tucks itself into the landscape to protect itself from the elements. Colossal mountains of cloud dominate the composition. The glimpse of blue sky shows just how quickly the weather can change.
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Fritz Reiss frequently devoted his attention to the gloomy side of Black Forest life. Many farms were located at a great height or in impassable terrain, where agriculture was scarcely possible. For the most part only cattle could be kept here, but during the long, hard winter, provisions had to last long enough to keep man and beast alive through the cold months. Often the farms were completely cut off from the outside world during the winter. Here, a lonely Black Forest farm lies in a hollow atop a bare hill. In the foreground, a stream traverses the mountain meadow. Tucked away and hidden from the storms, only the roof of the house is visible with its low-hanging eaves. Almost the entire upper half of the picture is occupied by the gloomy sky with its turbulent clouds, suggesting that the inhabitants of the house are exposed to the forces of nature. Yet the sun also shines where the wind has parted the clouds, causing the entire swath of land to glow-a testimony to how quickly the weather can change in the highest elevations of the Black Forest. As in the painting In the Hotzenwald, no human is visible in the picture. People and animals have presumably withdrawn into the Black Forest house for protection from the inclement weather. Fritz Reiss evokes this expressive mood using almost exclusively thin, glazing brushstrokes. Only a few places in the clouds show impasto application of paint, where white tones create bright highlights that awaken the hope of better weather. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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