Lothar Sperl was born in Markt Eisenstein, the third son of primary school teacher Alois Georg Sperl and his wife Rosalia.

Lothar, Luis, the parents, Walter

Eisenstein, Zelezna Ruda today, is situated in the Czech Republic, just across the border from Bavaria, in the Bohemian Forest. This geographical situation and consequent political developments in the area as well as the nature of the land marked Lothar Sperl’s life and art. 

In 1910 Bohemia – with a predominantly German population - belonged to the Austro – Hungarian Empire. After the First World War, the area of the Bohemian Forest became part of the new independent Czechoslovakia and the Germans had to come to terms with their minority status in the new Republic. Such tensions as there were, were greatly inflamed in 1938, after Hitler had annexed Austria into the German Reich and was planning to do the same to the so-called Sudetenland, the German – speaking area of Czechoslovakia. While Hitler and the British Prime Minister Chamberlain negotiated, the Czech population was armed and the Germans formed so – called Freicorps (guerrilla troops) to defend themselves, or stir up further trouble, according to other sources. Markt Eisenstein was finally occupied by regular German troops in October 1938 and a German administration was set up.

As its name implies, the Bohemian Forest is a largely wooded, hilly country with beautiful landscapes, a sparse and precarious agriculture, depending on forestry, glass manufacture, and in the 20th century, tourism. It was the landscapes and the activities of the local foresters and peasants that became the focus of Sperl’s early work.

In 1914, his father had to join the Austro –Hungarian army, was wounded and died in February 1915, weeks after the birth of his daughter.

His widow Rosalia had to rely on her own strength and the support of her family to bring up her four children. Despite her very meagre resources, she succeeded in making them all into solid upright adults. Lothar says in some of his letters home how much the closeness of the family meant to him and his siblings.

The widow and her children Luis, Rosl, Walter, Lothar

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