"Concerning myself I know that I have no program, only the inner longing to grasp what I see and feel and to find its purest expression. At this point I only know that these are things I come close to through art, not intellectually nor by means of the word." —Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Alongside Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Eric Heckel and Fritz Bleyl, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff was one of the four founding members of Dresden based Die Brücke group. Along with the Der Blaue Reiter artists the group founded the German Expressionist movement. In his early career, Schmidt-Rottluff was strongly influenced by French Fauve artists such as Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck. Whilst in the present work the Fauve elements are still visible in the bright, contrasting coloring and thick, expressive brushstrokes, it exemplifies the artist's move away from Post-Impressionist and Fauve influences, and his development of a unique visual vocabulary that characterized the mature period of his art.
However, Schmidt-Rottluff would develop this into a new form of volumetric art using the tenets of Cubism and the geometric teachings, emanating from Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus manifesto. As Magdalena Moller notes, "In his style during 1914 Schmidt-Rottluff reached a geometric formal vocabulary, an ascetic reduction of form, which leads on from the volumetric style based on its dynamic line that he had used up to that point. Alterations of form, stylisation of form and formal biases, such as those to be found in African sculpture, are taken up by Schmidt-Rottluff and made to fit his own creativity" (Magdelena M. Moeller, ed., Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich & Kunsthaus, Vienna, 1997, p. 30, translated from the German).
Haus im Schnee and Bei der Heuernte is a striking example of this new tendency in Schmidt-Rottluff's painting towards a geometric reduction of form, with its simple angular shapes, bold outlines and schematic rendering of the farmstead. In its freshness and energy of vision, in its breaking through to a new formal vocabulary and its vigorous rendering of an age-old scene of rural life, Haus im Schnee and Bei der Heuernte is an important and dramatic painting from a highly productive and original period in Schmidt-Rottluff's career.
In Haus im Schnee and Bei der Heuernte, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff infuses a simple farmhouse scene with both drama and expression through his trademark use of raw color. Taking what is a fairly classical snow scene and reducing the colors to a series of simple tones, he creates a powerful image with the minimum of painterly means. In doing so, the physical act of his painting, the action and form of each brushstroke, becomes an integral part of the work. Developed with long, swift and bold brushstrokes, the surface of the canvas is endowed with an energy and vitality that echoes the living nature of the scene. These features endow the whole work with a remarkable sense of freshness and vitality that reinforces the Brücke artist's insistence on directness and spontaneity as the key principles of artistic creation: the power of this reductive approach epitomizes his finest work.
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