By the Bees, um 1896
About the object
Curious, but keeping a respectful distance, a girl watches a swarm of bees. The shelf with the woven beehives is entwined in the branches of an elderberry tree in bloom. Its flowers partly protrude into the sunlight from the shade cast by the hut - as does one side of the child’s back.
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This painting by Curt Liebich shows a summertime nature scene. A little girl in traditional dress stands with her back to the viewer in front of a wooden shed. Shelves built into its side wall accommodate beehives of woven straw. A flower meadow glows green in the foreground, while flowers and lichens also grow on the building. An elderberry bush in the center shows umbels in full bloom. The girl appears to be watching the bees buzz in and out of the hives; individual bees are clearly visible in the painting. The girl’s meditative contemplation of the beehives conveys a sense of quiet and concentration; her absorption as she watches the bees takes on an almost religious character. Beekeeping was an important side business in the rural Black Forest, and beehives of woven straw were often made at home during the long winters. In addition to depicting farm life in the Black Forest, however, Liebich was also interested in a vision of nature, beautiful and pure. He plays artfully with light and shadow; his brushstroke is light and impressionistic. Like other artists, Liebich settled in the town of Gutach in the Black Forest beginning in the 1890s and was active in the regional artists’ colony founded there by Wilhelm Hasemann. Liebich himself came from Wesel near Düsseldorf; like Hasemann, he had studied at the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunsthochschule (Saxon Grand Ducal Academy of Art) in Weimar and found a new home and arena of activity in the Black Forest. In 1904, the painting was acquired by the Münsterbauverein in Freiburg in connection with a lottery for the restoration of the Freiburg Minster. With the lottery, the Münsterbauverein was also required to purchase contemporary works of art, which were then made available to the municipal collections on permanent loan. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)