Appenzeller Bauernmalerei (Appenzell Peasant Art)

The Senntumsmalerei (Herdsmen art) developed from the traditions of the «Alpfahrt» or herding of cattle to and from their summer pastures.  After 1800, during these festive occasions a painted wooden plate was attached to the bottom of the milk pail that was carried on the herdsmen’s shoulders. Extremely high quality peasant art was created in eastern Switzerland in the nineteenth century, which led this work to be integrated early on into the art museum’s collection. In addition to «Sennenbödeli» (milk pail bottoms) and furniture paintings, particularly popular in the rural environment were mainly the classical «Sennenstreifen,» long boards or strips depicting cattle drives to the Alpine pastures. The Kunstmuseum St.Gallen offers an extensive presentation of the Senntumsmalerei tradition in its many forms based on numerous masterworks by seminal artists of this genre.

Viehweide unter Kamor, Hohem Kasten und Staubern (1854) by Bartholomäus Lämmler (1809–1865) is considered the uncontested magnum opus of Appenzeller Bauernmalerei. The artist depicts cows and figures with an exceptional freshness and without deference to proportions. Even foreign alpinists and hunters find their way into the inventory of motifs and provide clear evidence that in its heyday, rather than promoting the glorification of rural culture, peasant art was a self-confident and contemporary expression of the cultural identity of Appenzell’s und Toggenburg’s surroundings.

Bauernmalerei achieved its classical formulation with Johannes Müller (1806-1897) in the mid-nineteenth century. After 1865, the artist was thus deluged with commissions from wealthy farmers; no least because he provided a more naturalistic depiction of the cattle than his forerunner, Lämmler. In contrast to Lämmler, Müller observed the proportions within the image. In his first signed work, Alp Wendbläss (1859), the cowherds thus appeared as tiny figures embedded in Appenzell’s extensive mountain landscape. In addition to numerous Alpfahrten, Müller also created views of prominent buildings, such as the restaurant, Gasthof Rossfall.

The remarkable, small-format picture panel Drei Sennen beim Jassen und Hund is from Franz Anton Haim (1830-1890), whose oeuvre is broadly represented in the collection with numerous Sennenstreifen and Alpfahrten, as well as the surprisingly subtly colored depiction of the restaurant Gasthof Goldibach near Teufen. The composition of the farmers gathered around the table captivates with the strict arrangement of visual elements, as is typical for Haim’s entire work. The motif of peasants enjoying a leisurely activity, however, is unique, singling out this work as an unparalleled artistic achievement in the Senntumsmalerei of Appenzell and Toggenburg.