Hans Thoma

Landscape on the Baar, 1911

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The flat, expansive upland plateau of the Baar lies between the ridges of the Black Forest in the west and the Swabian Alp in the east. Despite the cloud-filled sky that tells us a storm is brewing, a kneeling man is toiling in the field, while further back in the painting it is possible to pick out a woman and a child.
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When he painted this landscape in 1911, Hans Thoma had long been a respected and celebrated artist. Thoma, who came from the Black Forest, had achieved success as a painter above all during his many years in Frankfurt am Main. From 1899 on he had also served as director of the Großherzoglich-Badische Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Baden Grand Ducal Academy of Fine Arts) in Karlsruhe and the Kunsthalle museum there. His private life, however, had taken a turn for the worse: in 1901, his wife Cella died, plunging him into depression for many years. In this picture, too, a somewhat gloomy, melancholy mood is discernable. The painting depicts a flat landscape on the Baar, a high plateau between the mountains of the Black Forest in the west and the Swabian Alb in the east. Almost two-thirds of the image is occupied by a sky filled with massive clouds. The lower third of the painting shows a landscape with meadows and fields, articulated only on the horizon with a few trees and the contours of several houses and farm buildings. Kneeling in the broad foreground meadow is a man, clearly occupied with field work; further back are a mother and child. In a landscape otherwise empty of human beings, these figures seem like mere accessories, lost in the expanse of nature. They are conspicuously isolated; the man and the woman with the child are far removed from each other. The imposing sky suggests windy weather; the clouds structure the image, while the lower portion shows a somewhat monotonous landscape. In this expressive painting, it seems almost as if Thoma had captured a gloomy premonition of events to come in the course of history. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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