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Otto Modersohn

"Winterabend an der Wümme (Winter’s Evening on the River Wümme)", 1933

Oil on canvas

47,5 x 69 cm / framed 70 x 80 cm  ″

Signed and dated front bottom left "O Modersohn 33"
Older painting verso "Sommertag an der Wümme" (Summer's Day on the Wümme), ca. 1929
Signed bottom left "O Modersohn"
Expertise: Rainer Noeres from 31.05.2018
Otto Modersohn Museum, Fischerhude

- in craftsman's frame -

N 9331

No longer available

About the work

Four years after having painted "Late Summer's Day on the Wümme", Otto Modersohn revisited the picture, turned the canvas around, primed the former reverse and overpainted it with "Winter's Evening on the River Wümme". Recycling old paintings was not uncommon in Otto Modersohn's late phase. Sometimes the old work was overpainted, ie. expunged or made invisible, other times, as in this case, it was preserved, after being adjudged of equal artistic worth. Consequently, the buyer of such a canvas obtains two paintings for the price of one, and can therefore derive pleasure from both the front and reverse by alternating the hanging, depending on the seasonal mood one wishes to evoke: late summer or winter.
Modersohn's late-summer depiction of the River Wümme still shows the old, as yet unstraightened course of the north arm on the Bredenau, which today is much narrower. With consummate mastery Otto Modersohn captures the reflections of the densely tree-flanked bank, beyond which lies a near-by farmstead, partly hidden by vegetation. Illuminated by fading sunlight, the trees take on a liminal glow. The painting's energetic, even expressive, brushwork, and the colourful ambience of the motif also enhance the almost naturalistic representation. Characteristic of his output during the late 1920s, it presages nothing of the subsequent transition into his late phase.
The canvas "Winter's Evening on the River Wümme", however, marks the beginning of his final creative period. Particularly the paintings completed during this time betray the inspiration Modersohn drew from Pieter Breughel the Elder, whose winter paintings, housed in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum (which he only knew from a handful of prints), left a deep impression on him. Between 1930 and 1936 he spent the months of spring, summer and autumn on the Gailenberg near Hindelang, where since the 1930 he had owned a mountain farmer's cottage. This accounts for the conspicuous Fischerhude motifs featured in many of his winter paintings from this time. In this painting too, which lives from the contrast between warm and cold tones, the setting sun serves to intensify the colours in the encroaching twilight. Bushes, trees and the gable of the house are bathed in strong red hues, beneath a reddish sky - mellow colours, which are interfused with the light blue of the snow-covered roofs.
The cold blue stretch of ice is animated with life by the black and white ducks reflected in the puddles of melt water and by a lone skater gliding precariously across the melting ice. To the right is a duck house, a typical feature of the region, which offers the birds nocturnal refuge. This enchanting scene is possessed of a quite unique wintry magic, which on such days visitors to the village will find virtually unchanged.

(Rainer Noeres)

Further works by Otto Modersohn

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