Recognised as one of the most prominent painters of the German Expressionist movement, Max Pechstein’s paintings exemplify the confident brushwork, bright colours and exaggerated forms that characterise the Die Brücke group and their predecessors, the Fauves. Like his fellow German Expressionist painters as well as their French counterparts, over the summer months Pechstein sought to flee the frenzy of city life, and immerse himself in a more peaceful, ‘primitive’ environment where he could paint en plein air. Having spent several summers in the small fishing village of Nidden on the Baltic coast, in 1927 his search took him to Rowy, where he stayed for several months, from early June until October. Originally, Pechstein had left Berlin with the intention of depicting the locals. However, spells of bad weather spoiled the harvest and kept the locals too busy. Pechstein had to make alternative arrangements and focused instead on the rural landscape and the farm houses surrounding him. In a letter to George Grosz, Pechstein reports: 'Again I have found lodging by the Baltic Sea, in Rowy, a place, very secluded, as if forgotten. We keep house ourselves, so Marta has plenty to do. Unfortunately the weather is cold. I try to work in between showers' (translated from the German in Aya Soika, Max Pechstein: Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, Munich, 2011, vol. II, p. 19).
Herbstabend presents us with Pechstein’s interpretation of village life: harmonious, tranquil and at one with nature. A setting evening sun lends a warm golden glow to the buildings whilst the different hues of cool blues and violets bring the composition to life. The expressive execution and application of paint with large brush strokes are in line with the artist’s formal explorations at the time, demonstrating his determination to break through the traditional boundaries of painterly representation and aiming for the Expressionist stridency of colour and vision.
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