Executed in Holland during the summer months of 1898, Kirchgang in Laren is closely related to a slightly larger treatment in oil of the same motif (see M. Eberle, op. cit., no. 1899/1), as well as a further version in pastel held in the Stdtische Kunstsammlungen, Chemnitz (Inv. no. 92). According to Martin Eberle, in all likelihood the oil was worked up by Liebermann on his return to Germany when he added the figures. It was then displayed in May 1899 at the first exhibition of the Berlin Sucession.
The motif of a sun-dappled avenue through which solemn groups of Dutch villagers, clad in Sunday best, make their way to church was one which had exercised Liebermann since 1882 (see E 1882/24). The development of the theme, however, saw Liebermann moving away from the earlier depiction of a group of girls, busily chatting amongst themselves, and towards a compositionally more ambitious arrangement such as in the present work where pairs and single figures, often separated by a considerable distances, are balanced by a row of trees.
One advantage of the greater perspective established by the this later viewpoint was the opportunity to capture the dancing play of light on the leaf canopy. This added breadth also, as Martin Eberle points out (op. cit., p. 506), offers the visual analogy of a church's nave, with the tree trunks echoing sturdy pillars and the branches joining overhead to form the roof.
'Es ist die Antwort auf die Fragen, die das Problem des Impressionismus ihm stellte,' wrote Liebermann's biographer, Erich Hancke, of the oil variant of Kirchgang in Laren, 'Es sind materiellere, gleichsam etwas von der Substanz der Dinge mitfhrende Farben. Auf diesen baut er nun eine Impression auf. Nicht wie die Franzosen planvoll Ton neben Ton stellend, sondern in suggestiven Andeutungen' (quoted in loc. cit.).