Hans Thoma

Summer Morning in the Bernau Valley, 1863

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A native of Bernau, Thoma is one of the most renowned artists from the Black Forest. He repeatedly chose his home region as subject matter for his work. In this instance, he has painted a romantic picture of childhood in harmony with nature: the children deep in conversation are framed by nature and feel secure in this environment.
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Next to Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Hans Thoma is probably the most famous painter from the Black Forest. He came from modest circumstances in the municipality of Bernau, located with its various districts in a gentle valley at an altitude of about 900 meters in the southern Black Forest. Thoma showed an intense interest in his homeland his entire life long and made numerous paintings depicting the life and landscape of the Black Forest. He was also a great supporter of traditional crafts and himself produced furniture designs which were executed by regional craftsmen. During his lifetime he was celebrated as a great German painter, but after World War II he lost favor among art historians since, as a conservative national painter, his work had been instrumentalized by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945. This picture is one of Thoma’s early works, painted when he was still a student at the Großherzogliche Kunstschule (Grand Ducal Art School) in Karlsruhe. It shows two children at a stream, deep in conversation. The girl holds a small book in her hands and reads something to the boy. Both are wearing traditional costume and are seated in tall grass that shows no trace whatsoever of human activity; yet they are not entirely alone in nature, for a distant farmhouse also appears in the background. Thoma uses loose but very fine brushstrokes to create a lively landscape highly reminiscent of the French painters of the Barbizon School such as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875). Thoma here evokes a romantic image of childhood in harmony with nature, almost an Arcadian paradise. Having grown up in this environment himself, he repeatedly returned to the Bernau valley later in life to paint there. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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