While he was still a student in Weimar, Liebermann produced this early masterpiece. Although still showing the influence of other artists, nevertheless it also points towards the future. In 1871 Liebermann, along with Theodor Hagen, had visited the fashionable painter Mihaly Munkácsy in Düsseldorf. In his studio they saw his almost finished Flax Pickers, which made a lasting impression on Liebermann. When a friend returned from a study tour with a drawing of women plucking geese, Liebermann had found his subject, combining the composition of the drawing with Munkácsy’s style.
He made detailed studies for the work in Weimar, taking his own drawing of Goethe’s last coachman as his model for the male figure — Liebermann’s lodgings as a student in Weimar were opposite Goethe’s house. Women Plucking Geese was the first work that the 25-year-old Liebermann exhibited, and it was not received well, being mocked for its “poor” subject matter and dark colouration. However, it did find a buyer in the railway millionaire Bethel Strousberg, and with the money it earned him Liebermann travelled to Paris where he had his first sight of paintings by Millet and Courbet.
[Oil on canvas, 119.5 x 170.5 cm]