News 2016

Moll's encounter with South Tyrol


Oskar Moll
Branch. 1911
Oil on canvas
58.5 x 64.5 cm
Signed bottom right: Oskar Moll
Privately owned


Last year saw a surprising new discovery in Oskar Moll's œuvre, when a painting concisely entitled Zweig [branch] – not mentioned in Salzmann's monograph (1975) – was auctioned at  Villa Grisebach in Berlin. This classical modern work, once included in the collection of Herbert Thannhäuser (1898-1963, a Berlin commercial artist and type designer), probably shows a detail from the Italian province of South Tyrol, where his travels took him in 1911.

The dominant motif is the branch in the foreground, which arches over the entire width of the picture, framing the lower-lying landscape with orchards spread in front of a village scene in the middle ground. A mist-shrouded sky with patches of blue forms the background. The hazy clouds look as though they are about to flee, as the early-morning sun prevails, bathing the rural scene in radiance.

The painting is brought alive by the light, airy yet intensely colourful effect, which is enhanced by complementary contrasts. Moll was familiar with this Impressionist and Fauvist technique from the periods he spent in Paris, from 1907 onwards. Linear and painterly features alternate; brush-sketched areas are juxtaposed with generous colour fields, decoratively curving branches interspersed with dense tree-tops. Its special aesthetic charm derives from places where the paint is applied thinly, so that the lightly-primed ground becomes part of the abstract composition.

The architecture of the village, with its whitewashed façades and typical bell-tower on a gable-end, set at the edge of a meadow orchard, very probably locates it somewhere around Merano. The date of the painting, 1911, would confirm this – for at the end of that year, it was included in the group exhibition Leo Klein-Diepold, Oskar Moll, Max Pechstein, Fritz Rhein, Josef Rippl-Rónai, held in the prominent Salon Paul Cassirer in Berlin. In a review of this exhibition, Moll's contribution was described favourably and in detail (Eduard Thoma, in: Die Gegenwart, vol. 41, no. 1, 1.1.1912, p 10 f).