"And your birch trees, these delicate, lithesome maidens which delight the eye. With their willowy, ethereal elegance, they seem yet to be animated into life. They are so endearing, one can't help but succumb to them. They are irresistible”, noted Paula Modersohn–Becker in her diary, articulating a passion by which not only she, but also other Worpswede artists had been seized. The birch trees in the Lower–Saxony landscape are among the most frequently formulated motifs of the Worpsweder artists. They are featured in a variety of oil paintings and rhythmize the surface of the canvas as lean, young saplings, their trunks inclined by the wind, their branches bearing the first tentative buds of spring or boasting an autumnal riot of colour, standing either alone or in a row. They are the pre–eminent feature in Otto Modersohn's “Moorland Ditch", which was completed in 1941 – just two years before the artist's death. Knotted, bent tree trunks, shaped by the rough landscape, protrude into the painting from the right and the left. The moorland ditch, from which that work derives its title, together with the two small cottages, are placed to the right, whereas the broad, tree–lined path dominates the canvas. The crowns of the trees are cropped by the edge of the canvas and their small, fluttering leaves – rendered with large dabs – unfold before the blue sky like a canopy of leaves over the motif. This compositional feature can be seen as characteristic of Worpsweder landscape painting. With their choice of unspectacular motifs, together with their marked focus on scenic detail, the Worpsweder artists consciously set themselves apart from the tradition of 19th century landscape painting.
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