Compared to Otto Modersohn's other Allgäu paintings, this canvas features an unusual view of the Gailenberg with its scattering of barns seen from below. Two thirds of the gentle incline, rendered in cool and warmer green hues, appear to indicate motion, reinforced by the undulating, rolling slope, the winding row of bushes and the barn in the middle. Completing the motif are the row of lofty pine trees, which find their counterpoint in the menacing tower of clouds, centrally positioned against the deep blue sky. This warm summer's day, with storm clouds brewing, shows a peasant women raking in the last of the hay. The harvest has been gathered in before the thunder clouds opened. Until the present day, the farmers in Gailenberg have been committed to maintaining and nurturing their unique cultural landscape.
Otto Modersohn in the Allgäu
Otto Modersohn is universally hailed as the painter of the Worpsweder moors and of the low–lying plains of the River Wümme. Over a period of 30 years, these two almost adjacent, yet so startlingly different regions of the North German lowlands, with their austere topographical character, tributaries, flood plains and majestic sky came to shape Modersohn's art. Throughout the 1920s, he undertook various trips: initially to Franken (Wertheim) in 1922, on the suggestion of the Hamburg painter Ahlers–Hestermann and his wife Alexandra–Povorina, and subsequently until 1927 – always accompanied by his third wife Louise Modersohn–Breling – to Sulzfeld, Iphofen, Würzburg and into the Allgäu as far afield as Oberjoch and Kempten. The first joint excursion into the dramatic mountainous scenery of the Allgäuer Alps in 1925 left a deep impression on the couple. Indeed, the fascination which this diverse mountainous landscape exercised over them was to endure for almost a decade. In the ensuing years, Louise Modersohn frequently urged her husband to relocate to the South. In 1930 Otto Modersohn purchased a 500–year–old farmer's cottage, as a second family domicile, on the Gailenberg near Hindelang, which, despite their modest means, his wife succeeded in furnishing with great resourcefulness. However, Otto Modersohn was too closely attached to the landscape around Worpswede and Fischerhude to abandon their home there completely, and thus only painted on the Gailenberg from the spring to autumn of each year, preferring to remain in Fischerhude during the winter months.The Allgäu was a constant source of fresh inspiration for Otto Modersohn, and the impressions he gathered on the Gailenberg were to unleash a new phase of creativity, which was reflected in the striking new approach characterising his later work, which was not only confined to his motifs. "The landscape in the mountains is more dramatic and exciting", he noted in his diary in May 1934: "In the mountains: form through perspective, displacement, distant mountains, richer, more diverse, stronger, as are the colours..." Whilst in the mountains he experienced a heightened sensibility with which captured the elemental landscape, the permanently shifting weather conditions and his keen observations of the natural world with an arresting immediacy. The motif of the mountains lends itself to the staggered structure of the composition, which is modified by the work's spatial concept and atmospheric quality.
Modersohn's direct observations of nature and his inner impressions meld together in his mountain paintings, as he discovers the stratified landscape of the mountain world. The seasonal interaction of verdant spring meadows, blossoming fruit orchards and simultaneous snowfall, and the atmospheric tensions of sun–drenched fields and cloud–covered mountain faces inspired him to create pictorial spaces with ever greater intensity. His desire for immersion and interiority brought forth pictures whose raison d'être lies well beyond time and space. Manifested is a concept of reality, which lends his perception of nature an unusual density and cohesion. They resonate like the closing cadences of a fulfilled life which found harmony in itself and gave nature a fitting countenance.
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