The Flax Barn at Laren is one of Liebermann’s main works among his large-scale paintings of groups of people and workers from the 1880s. At the time, Holland was an important destination for Liebermann and his contemporaries. They saw Rembrandt and Frans Hals as their artistic role models, and by working directly from observation of their subjects, they learned to leave their dark studios and to shake off the fetters of Munkácsy’s working methods. In addition, in Holland they found the ideal of a bourgeois society and a solid social structure put into practice. At the time, plein air painting was still confusingly modern, but The Flax Barn at Laren was all the more offensive for the scale of development of its subject matter. In a bright, low, yet extensive shed, all the figures are performing the same task, spinning flax. By the wall under the windows, there are children using flywheels to wind the flax onto spindles. Women and girls stand spaced throughout the room, each with a bundle of flax under her arm, spinning the thread with her hands. The scene is marked by its strong, even rhythm; in their structure the parallels of the floorboards and the beams strengthen the harmony of the work. The women stand in the space like “pillars”. The work depicts the calm of everyday life — and a sense of permanence in the monotony of constantly repeated movements. The colours are also without dramatic contrasts, reserved and cool. That peculiarly Dutch, pale, silvery-grey light, which Liebermann loved so much, permeates the scene. Above all it is the light here, in all its various reflections, that underlines the life and beauty of the scene — an everyday poem, calm and composed.


  • Title: The Flax Barn at Laren
  • Creator: Max Liebermann
  • Date Created: 1887
  • Physical Dimensions: w232.0 x h135.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: A I 431
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Andres Kilger
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Max Liebermann was a German-Jewish painter and printmaker. Together with Lovis Corinth and Max Slevogt he was a key figure in German Impressionism. After having studied law and philosophy at the Berlin’s Humboldt University, he began his training as an artist, first in Weimar (in 1869), then in Paris, as well as in the Netherlands (from 1876 to 1877), during which time he copied the works of Frans Hals. After having served in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) he made his first journey to Italy to study the compositions of Carvaggio and Bellini. He lived and worked in Munich before finally settling down permanently in Berlin. It was here that he became famous for his portraits, mostly of the bourgeoisie, which were deeply influenced by Édouard Manet. Liebermann became the leader of the Berlin Secession in 1899 and president of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1920. He is known for such works as the 'Bathing Boys' (1900).
  • Artist Place of Death: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Dates: 1847-07-20/1935-02-08

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