Otto Modersohn - Abend im Moordorf
Abend im Moordorf
Oil on canvas 111.7 x 214.8 cm Framed. Signed, inscribed, and dated 'Otto Modersohn W. 98' in reddish brown lower right. - In very fine condition.
It seems that, with the painting “Abend im Moordorf”, the artist wished to grasp the complete surroundings of his new home. He had been very familiar with the landscape around Worpswede since 1889 when, together with Fritz Mackensen, his friend from the academy, he had first visited this area not far from Bremen. In his first sketches from his first stays there, Modersohn occupied himself with the character of this landscape - with its moor ditches, moor canals with peat boats, the banks of the moor with the farmers' and boatmen's low thatch-roofed houses and the typical rows of birches lined up - and he repeatedly studied the rolling clouds above the Hamme. “You have to have a very special, secret feeling of your own when you paint a picture, entirely personal, for your own most inward joy. Those with insight immediately notice whether the picture has grown out of a feeling like that,” wrote Modersohn on 12 April 1897 in his journal.
Like the landscapes “Herbstmorgen am Moorkanal”, “Herbst im Moor” and “Mädchen am Moortümpel” created the year before, the large-format painting “Abend im Moordorf” belonged to a series of magnificent landscape portraits. They document a cultural landscape with an ingenious drainage system created over the centuries to permit the cutting of the peat and the development of the countryside for the cattle farming that followed. At the turn of the century, with a talent for storytelling and for citing finely observed material, Modersohn grasped the reality of these ancient boglands and portrayed this unique natural setting with the receptive nuances in a new tonality of colours. This characteristic feature had already been recognised early on by Rainer Maria Rilke, when he saw Modersohn's paintings at Munich's Glaspalast in 1895 and noted with perceptible surprise: “Otto Modersohn was represented by no less than eight pictures, eight pictures rapidly painted one after the other, in which everything was splendour, resonance and breathtaking motion. The language was new, the phrases unusual, the contrasts rang together like gold and glass. No one had ever seen anything like it, they were unsettled, disturbed, dubious. [...] Vibrant colours were replaced by the wilted and dull colours of memory, instead of the colours of life. Red darkened almost to black, blue faded as though it had been in the sun and all the greens took on a brownish, enduring tint that no longer changed.” Rainer Maria Rilke's eulogy to Modersohn's paintings (cited in exhib. cat.: Otto Modersohn: Monographie einer Landschaft, Hamburg 1978, p. 129) does not just describe his own personal experience of being overpowered at the sight of the paintings. He additionally notes the influence of these moor landscapes on the disposition of the artist and also senses the transformation of his visual language into a melancholy vein.
With these pictures Modersohn's landscape painting experienced a flowering in the waning years of the 19th century: he used the means offered by French plein-air painting to transform the rigorous and inventive, but idealising and effusive landscape painting of Romanticism into a human, late naturalism that was true to reality. Modersohn succeeded in bringing out the spiritual depth beneath the delicate influence of Symbolism and in using his passion for Jugendstil to break open academically realistic painting and Naturalism's fidelity to detail.
We would like to thank Rainer Noeres, Otto Modersohn Museum, Fischerhude, for additional information.
The painting is recorded in Otto Modersohn's 1897-98 studio book under no. 214-111.
Geh. Medicinalrath Prof. Dr. Werth, Kiel (1898); Corporate Collection, Rhineland
Richard Muther (ed.), Die Kunst - Worpswede, Berlin 1903/1904, p. 70
Dresden 1898 (Sächsischer Kunstverein), Internationale Kunstausstellung, no. 279; Vienna 1898 (Künstlerhaus), Jubiläums-Kunstausstellung, cat. no. 273 with illus. ("Ehrenpreis [Honorary Award] Fürst Liechtenstein")