Karl Schuster

Black Forest Idyll, 1900

About the object

Schuster studied architecture and painting. He recreates the individual features of the building in great detail: the pitched half-hip roof is thatched, the façade is clad in wooden shingles and the lattice windows have shutters. Although the detail has been painted realistically, Schuster still manages to create a thoroughly idyllic impression.
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As the title of the painting indicates, here Karl Schuster presents a seemingly perfect, harmoniously transfigured “idyll”: an old farmhouse in the midst of a peaceful, snowy landscape. In this work he successfully dramatizes both the beauty and the loneliness of the Black Forest in winter. A native of Freiburg, Karl Schuster studied both architecture and painting. His study of architecture had a profound influence on his work, which consisted primarily of detailed paintings of house facades, alleys, and figural scenes from Freiburg and the Black Forest. He also traveled extensively and painted numerous scenes from Alsace, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain. Here Schuster presents a careful rendering of a traditional Black Forest house. The low-hanging roof covered in straw, typical of the houses of this southern region, is partially shrouded in snow; the house is surrounded by a snow-covered landscape and the mountains of the Black Forest. Karl Schuster depicts the building from the side so that we can observe both the main house and an adjoining building, possibly a barn. A fence stretches across the foreground, and in the background of the picture stands a small building that likewise belongs to the farm. The influence of Schuster’s architectural training is very clear, for the details of the Black Forest house are precisely delineated—the aforementioned low-hanging roof, as well as the wooden shingles on the façade and the arrangement of the farmhouse, which suggests an isolated farm. On such farms, humans and animals essentially live under a single roof. Schuster’s precise, accurate depiction successfully casts the spell of the winter landscape on the viewer. Despite the realistic rendering, the painting conveys a thoroughly idyllic impression. Today there are still a few houses in the Black Forest that appear nearly identical to Schuster’s work. MELISSA MAGGIORE (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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