Girl with White Headscarf

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Leibl, Girl with White Headscarf, 1876

By MEGAN GANNON

The first time I met The Girl with White Headscarf I did not appreciate her. I thought she was just another portrait painted by another German. In reading into Leibl’s life I saw the familiar pattern of an artist quitting the academy to find their own way, which is commendable but by this time in our art history journey seems a bit redundant.

So what makes Leibl different? Why remember him? Why remember The Girl with White Headscarf? What makes a Bavarian farm girl from 1876 extraordinary?

My answer. Everything.

With time she works her way into your heart occupying your thoughts. Her perfectly-flushed cheeks appear in your head as you make your way through crisp January days, and Leibl's rough strokes remind you that unlike porcelain dolls she possesses real skin with imperfections.

Leibl paints a girl simply as she is, not adding elaborate embellishments with color or texture, but focusing on her profile with stark contrasts of white and dark pigments. In 1876 when Leibl revealed his painting, many would of refused to recognize this girl as art. Her simplicity would make her unappealing and ordinary, yet upon taking the time to truly admire the girl she would come alive.

One would see the life behind her eyes. The uncertainty she might of felt as a man who knew nothing of her life attempted to paint her. Leibl’s later works mark his vow to paint the people and our girl demonstrates the beauty in the ordinary.

He captures humanity with simplistic style. Leibl’s painting reflects that even though we may construct arbitrary limits of wealth, class, and race in the end we all are human. We all have smiles, eyes, and thoughts. Our farm girl possesses all the beauty and grace of Madame Pompadour. Her rawness makes her worthy of our attention and our respect.

Leibl made me see simple beauty and for that I thank him.

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