Alpine dairy farming art

The earliest examples of alpine dairy farming art date from the 16th and 17th centuries and were paintings on wooden boards or glass and then, from the 18th century onwards, furniture was painted. It was in about 1800 that the tradition began of painting the bases of the wooden milking pails that are an integral part of the procession to take the cows up to alpine pastures. The long paintings depicting such processions, known as “Sennenstreifen”, began to appear at around the same time. These long, narrow boards showed the cows belonging to a particular farmer and would therefore often hang above the entrance to a barn or cowshed. Paintings on wooden panels showing alpine dairy farming scenes were popular in the 1830s. The procession to take the cows up to alpine pastures remained the main subject until the Second World War. Later, the paintings also depicted other scenes from farming life.

Not all the artists were farmers themselves. Many were craftsmen, home weavers, embroiderers, embroidery designers, farm hands, pedlars or day labourers. Unlike artists of the next generation, these painters depicted the actual procession taking the cows of a particular farmer up to the alpine pastures. The artists working at the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century still painted the alpine processions and traditional costumes that were the expected norm, but were freer in their depictions of the cows and background scenes. This farming art started to be more widely appreciated during the Second World War.

After the 1960s, scenes depicting farming life through the year began to appear in addition to the traditional themes of local customs and events.

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