One day in the late summer of 1887 Hans Thoma went exploring along the banks of the Nidda near Ginnheim. Looking to the north he discovered a natural flood plain full of meanders and oxbow lakes. The river there, lined with trees as it still is today, was scarcely regulated at all and would continue to burst its banks right up to the early twentieth century. Thoma, as an artist committed to Naturalism, used a grid to help him capture the exact proportions of the landscape, and by reserving certain areas was able to incorporate into his work the blue of the paper underneath. The trees staggered into the left background appear to be tossing in the wind and under their swaying crowns afford us a glimpse of the river and of the hills of the Taunus rising up to the horizon. The sky behind the trees is rendered unobtrusively in a delicate shade of yellow with sparingly applied white heightening. The articulation of the animated tree crowns in strident, sweeping lines of pencil and charcoal over watercolour lends them great vitality.
Later the same year Thoma used this work as a study for his painting Am Waldrand (On the Edge of the Forest), which is now in the Städel.1 While he was meticulous about transferring the trees, they still come across as much denser in the late evening light of the oil painting. There, the view of the Taunus has had to yield to the dark red glow of the last sunlight of the day and the stream cutting through the meadow has the effect of circumscribing the foreground, which is brought to life by three grazing horses and a figure under the trees.
Hans Thoma, Am Waldrand (Wiese mit drei Pferden), oil on canvas, 74 x 103 cm, monogrammed and dated at bottom right: HTh 1887, inv. no. SG 37.↩