Black Forest Mill, 1903
About the object
Streams and rivers traverse this wet region and, especially after the snow has melted in spring, channel high volumes of water. Watermills were therefore widespread throughout the region. Liebich places the mill wheel at the centre of the composition. The play of water and the rhythmic alternation of light and shade lend the scene a degree of dynamism.
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The Black Forest is notable for its abundance of water. Copious rainfall makes this mountainous region in the south of Germany especially green. Streams and rivers run throughout the land, and when the snow melts in spring they are especially full. Water mills are typical of this region; they are used to grind grain and nowadays to produce electricity. In this painting, Curt Liebich artfully depicts the waterwheel of one such mill. He shows only a section of the building, the side wall on which the wooden waterwheel is mounted in order to turn under the pressure of the water in the mill channel. Trees next to the building allow the sun to filter through, leaving only a few patches of light on the façade. The alternation of light and shadow as well as the bubbling, foaming water flowing through the wheel give this painting an extraordinarily lively, realistic quality. At the same time, the concentration and even reduction of the composition to the waterwheel is remarkable. The resulting impression of dynamism seems all the stronger and more intense, even as the rushing water also serves to produce a calming effect on the viewer. Along with Wilhelm Hasemann, Curt Liebich was one of the core members of the Gutach artists’ colony. He came from the Rhineland, but like his friend settled in Gutach in the Kinzig valley. The two artists were already acquainted from their time at the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunsthochschule (Saxon Grand Ducal Academy of Art) in Weimar, and in 1896 Liebich married Hasemann’s sister-in-law. Liebich became popular above all for his numerous prints depicting traditions of the Black Forest, which were disseminated worldwide as postcards or advertising prints. As with the work By the Bees, this painting was acquired by the Münsterbauverein in Freiburg in 1904 in connection with a lottery for the Freiburg Minster. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)