Best, Hans (1874-1942)

Best, Hans (1874-1942)
Best, Hans (1874-1942)

Hans Best crafted scenes of rustic, rural life in his large oeuvre of genre scenes and landscapes. Much inspired by the world around him, Best would also find these pictures earned him favour in his rapidly changing homeland of Germany.

Best came from humble origins. His father was a carpenter, but the young and budding artist secured himself a place at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Significantly, Munich was the centre of artistic enterprise in Germany, and the Academy was one of the finest in Europe. Best could have chosen no better place to begin to carve out his artistic career.

During his time at the Academy, Best received tuition from two artists who would come to influence his style and his subject matter. Karl Raupp (1837-1918) and Wilhelm von Diez (1839-1907) both had a focus on genre scenes and landscape art. Most significantly, von Diez was a follower of the Munich School of Painting. This collective of artists, many of whom studied at the Academy, had a predilection for depicting rural everyday life in a realistic manner charged with emotion and a strong narrative. Best was very much taken in by this trend, and it set him on an artistic trajectory for the rest of his life.

Best uses emotive brushstrokes which enhance the rustic vitality of his scenes and communicate effectively the rural, rough-around-the-edges feel of his subject matter. Plaster walls are effused with the shades of shadows as a group of men gather to discuss their village’s politics. Best uses bursts of colour in their clothes to give each figure singularity. Their expressions, too, are hewn with a uniqueness specific to them. Each face tells a tale of the men’s thoughts as they deliberate. One man looks pensive, another scornful and unconvinced. Best gives as much weight to an image of men concerned about their village as one might to a depiction of great politicians deciding the fate of their country. Best recognised the compelling, and most importantly human qualities of everyday, rural life.
That is not to say, however, that his works did not possess wit. Indeed, the emphatic character he bestows upon the characters in his scenes if often cheeky. A number of Best’s works were printed and sold on postcards, owing to their easily marketable, mirthful nature.

His landscapes, too, have a sense of the rustic. In an elegant, poetic way, Best translates the ephemeral essence of nature through his paintbrush. The viewer can feel the chill which might roll in with the gathering rain clouds which descend upon a blue-tinted sky. The river which trails across the canvas looks cold to dip a toe into, the rolling hills in the far distance a much more appealing venture to stride across. Best combines a naturalism which effectively translates the scenes onto his canvas whilst also imbuing with another element which truly evokes their feeling.

Best became very successful in his artistic career. Not only did he work for a time as a professor of graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, but he was also a member of the Munich Art Association and judged on the jury for the annual art exhibitions held in Munich. Best also won multiple awards for his work, including the prestigious Austrian State Medal and the Lenbach Prize of the City of Munich.


Born in Mannheim, Germany.


Awarded a gold medal at the Glaspalast (Glass Palace) Exhibition.


Awarded the Austrian State Medal.


Exhibited at the Great German Art Exhibition.


Awarded the Lenbach Prize of the City of Munich.


Died in Munich, Germany.

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