Fritz von Uhde, Bavarian Drummers [Bayrische Trommler] (1883)
This painting by Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911), also titled Drum Practice, was one of the artist’s first naturalistic scenes. Uhde grew up in the Kingdom of Saxony, where his father was a senior official in the Protestant church hierarchy. In the years following the appearance of this work, Uhde became known as a painter of controversial scenes from the life of Christ, including Suffer Little Children to Come unto Me (1884) and The Last Supper (1886). Uhde had spent ten years as an officer in the Saxon Horse Guards before he took up painting, so he knew something about everyday life in the army. But Bavarian Drummers met with a severe reception from conservative art critics of the day, who complained that the soldiers, who stood on cluttered ground in their rumpled blue uniforms, were presented in casual rather than posed positions. Viewers were also offended by the austere and dreary composition, which they felt lacked any sort of central focus, humor, or didactic message.