Painted in quick, spontaneous brushstrokes, Pferderennen captures the speed and vivacity of the horses depicted as they roar around the corner of the racetrack. The colours are muted, the contours of the audience and the background are blurred, and yet Max Liebermann, with his masterly handling of light and movement, successfully captures the dynamic energy of the race.

Liebermann painted his first horse paintings around 1900 during his regular stays in Scheveningen and Noordwijk in Holland, and it was a subject he would continue to develop and explore during the following fourteen years. He drew from urban leisure in the same way as Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir had rebelled against classical subject matter in favour of creating works that reflected the world in which they lived. Indeed, the present work harks back to a lithography of Manet’s “les courses'' which, like Liebermann’s depiction, does not show the storming finish on the home straight, but shows the horses furiously galloping towards the viewer.

Initially acquired by Erich Goldschmidt, whose wife’s Grandmother, Clara Liebermann was a cousin of the artist, the work was later inherited by his wife, Margot Goldschmidt after he died in 1931. The work has since been inherited by the present owner, Margot’s grandson, so has remained in the, albeit distant, family of the artist since it was painted.

Edouard Manet, Les Courses, 1865–72, published 1884, 53 x 68.3cm.