Wilhelm Leibl, Peasants in Conversation / The Village Politicians [Bauern im Gespräch / Die Dorfpolitiker] (1877)
Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900) originally planned to title this painting Latest News. As he wrote to his mother, “My painting shows five peasants who have huddled together in a small rustic room, apparently to discuss some matter of village politics because one of them holds in his hand a piece of paper that looks like an old land-registry notice. They are real peasants, whom I paint as true to nature as I can; the room is real too, because I paint the picture while I am in it.” (Götz Czymmek and Christian Lenz, eds., Wilhelm Leibl zum 150. Geburtstag. Heidelberg: Edition Braus, 1994, p. 67.) Leibl later titled his work Peasants in Conversation [Bauern im Gespräch], but it is best known under the name given to it by the contemporary art trade: The Village Politicians [Die Dorfpolitiker]. It was painted while Leibl was living in rural Bavaria – in Unterschondorf am Ammersee. This painting contributed to a re-evaluation of Leibl among right-wing art critics of the 1870s. He went from a quasi-oppositional painter of “common” subjects (à la Gustave Courbet) to a “Holbein-like” chronicler of Germany’s rural essence.