- Albin Egger-Lienz
- Der Sämann (the sower)
- signed A. EGGER-LIENZ lower left
- tempera (casein) on canvas
- 240 by 170cm., 94½ by 67in.
Moderne Kunsthandlung Brakl & Thannhauser, Munich (by 1921)
Purchased from the above by the grandfather of the present owners on 19 May 1921
Wilfried Kirschl, Albin Egger-Lienz: Das Gesamtwerk, Vienna & Munich, 1996, vol. II, p. 540, no. M322, catalogued & illustrated, vol. I, pp. 198–202, the triptych discussed
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The figure in Albin Egger Lienz's The Sower was conceived for his monumental triptych, Erde (The Earth) (Kirschl, M319). Starting work in 1912, Egger first completed the two side panels (the sower on the left and the reaper on the right) in oil, but rejected these and painted two new versions in milk-based casein tempera, each measuring 232 by 173cm. The square central panel, also in tempera and measuring 232 by 232cm, depicted a mountain meadow in the Ötztal valley. The triptych was shown publicly eight times, between 1912 and 1915. None of the original panels of the triptych survives, although in 1913 a tempera réplique of the sower (Kirschl, M321) measuring 230 by 171cm, was purchased by the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, where it remains today. Known only from archival photographs until its recent rediscovery, the present work, which Kirschl dates to before 1914, is a further version of the composition, showing the artist's ongoing interest in the subject.
The Earth was painted at the height of Egger-Lienz's career, shortly after Der Totentanz von Anno Neun (1908; Vienna, Österreichische Galerie, Belvedere), and Haspinger Anno Neun (1908-09; Lienz, Museum Schloss Bruck). While the latter works were overtly polemical, inspired by the Tyrolean freedom battles of 1809 against the French troops of Napoleon, here the sower is depicted as the salt of the earth in times of peace, his stolid and unquestioning expression evoking those of the sower in Jean-François Millet's eponymous painting. The Sower epitomises Egger's pared-down, monumental style, setting it apart from his earlier Realist style, influenced by his teacher Franz Defregger at the Munich Academy.
Throughout his oeuvre, Egger-Lienz was focused on the everyday agrarian life of his homeland, progressively abstracting his formal language into monumental expressiveness. Like his other Tyrolean peasant subjects after 1909, the sower is an introspective figure, absorbed in his task of working the land. By focusing on the figure, presented as a clearly outlined form, and setting it against a simplified alpine backdrop, Egger-Lienz heightens the isolation, but also the heroism and monumentality of the figure. The earthly, reddish skin tones of the sower and reaper in The Earth were executed in a colour Egger had first used in the Sower and Devil in 1908. Describing the importance of the choice of palette, Egger-Lienz commented: 'The prominent brownish tint of the body, face and the hands is a carefully deliberated necessity for my style. The warm, rusty red glow of my new compositions complements my style colouristically. It gives it gravity, ceremony, ruggedness.' (quoted in Kirschl, vol. I, p. 136).