- Max Liebermann
- DER NUTZGARTEN IN WANNSEE NACH WESTEN (THE GARDEN IN WANNSEE TO THE WEST)
- signed M Liebermann and dated 1921 (lower right)
- oil on canvas
Acquired from the estate of the above by the present owner circa 1975
Der Nutzgarten in Wannsee nach Westen, painted in 1921, is a beautiful example of Max Liebermann's depiction of his garden at the Wannsee in Berlin. The painting captures one of the most intimate views of the artist's garden rendered here with a warmly infused light. After commissioning his Wannsee villa in 1909, the artist spent many years painting his garden from various angles, sometimes focusing on the enclosed, cultivated patches of flowers, while at other times representing the open expanses.
The Wannsee villa became Liebermann's beloved summer residence for the last decades of his life and the paintings from this period show his garden in all its glory. The villa was modelled on country houses the artist saw in Hamburg and when it was completed, Liebermann even referred to his villa and garden as his Klein-Versailles (Little-Versailles). The artist took great pride in it and paid special attention to the design and layout of his garden. In collaboration with his friend, Alfred Lichtwark (director of the Kunsthalle in Hamburg at the time), Liebermann designed his garden following the most avant-garde contemporary garden design concepts and created a haven of colours and floral splendour. The combination of flower beds, a rose garden and a vegetable garden was a most advanced concept at the time.
Liebermann was heavily influenced by the Impressionists at the beginning of his career, and his appreciation for plein-air painting continued throughout his life. One can see evidence of his lingering Impressionist tendencies in the fluid application of paint and the diffusion of light throughout this composition, reminiscent of Renoir's pictures of the Wargemont garden and Monet's canvases of Giverny. Like Monet, who also continued to paint his garden into the last years of his life, Liebermann approached his late landscapes with considerably freer application of paint and more daring use of colour than in his earlier work.
Commenting on the artist's increasing use of a strong colour palette in the 1920s, Jenns Eric Howoldt noted: 'Colour was the key. In the 1920s, one can clearly see Liebermann's increasing interest in a heightened colour effect. The painter largely took away the illusion of depth in his canvases and restricted himself to a fragmented use of space such as the depiction of a path leading out of the picture plane (...). The use of sections and fragments, the reduced distance to the motif and the merging of form and colour characterise Liebermann's radicalised pictorial concept of his later garden pictures' (J. E. Howoldt in, Im Garten von Max Liebermann, (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 64, translated from German).
The artist found a constant source of inspiration in his Wannsee garden. Whilst in some depictions of the rose garden he concentrated on recreating its geometric pattern, dividing his composition into clearly delineated circular shapes and straight lines, in others he chose a more Impressionistic approach with looser, more spontaneous brushwork, concentrating on the effect of light and colour. In the present work, the artist achieved a dynamic composition by combining the two styles: the viewer's eye is led down the two paths stretching from the lower right corner towards the left and upper edges framing the picture plane, complemented by the dynamic rendering of the flower beds and trees. This carefully constructed image is, however, painted in quick, Impressionistic brushstrokes of ochre and green punctuated by the jewel-like spots of bright red and yellow flowerbeds.
In the present work, the figure of the woman gardening adds to the overall informal, idyllic rendering of the scene. Liebermann constructs an image of a domesticated nature arranged by the human hand whereby the gardening woman embodies the cultivating activity. Aesthetics and practical application form a unity within the geometrically constructed garden (taken from Im Garten von Max Liebermann, (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 63, translated from German).
The present work vividly captures the intense colours of the flower bed and the atmospheric shadows thrown onto the paths by the dappled sunshine. The application of thick impasto and the use of strong reds, light blues, greens, yellow and whites are a testimony to Liebermann's admiration of painters such as Manet, Monet and Van Gogh. Der Nutzgarten in Wannsee nach Westen gives a wonderfully intimate insight into Liebermann's love for nature and his garden and is one of the most atmospheric depictions of this view of the Wannsee garden in the artist's œuvre.