Hermann Max Pechstein
- Hermann Max Pechstein
- GARTENRAND (GARDEN)
- signed with the monogram and dated 1910. (lower right); signed M Pechstein, titled, numbered 400 and inscribed Berlin-Wilmersdorf Durlacherstr 14. on the reverse
- oil on canvas
Galerie Grosshennig, Dusseldorf (acquired by 1958)
Private Collection, Germany (acquired circa 1960)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Brücke, 1958, no. 119, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Gartenweg)
Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie und Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Der junge Pechstein, Gemälde, Aquarelle und Zeichnungen, 1959, no. 70
Berlin, Brücke-Museum, Künstler der Brücke, Gemälde der Dresdner Jahre 1905-1910, 1973, no. 63
Dusseldorf, Galerie Grosshennig, Ausgewählte Meisterwerke des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1977-78
Berlinische Galerie, Stationen der Moderne. Die bedeutenden Kunstausstellungen des 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland (exhibition catalogue), Berlin, 1988, no. 1/12, illustrated
Magdalena M. Moeller, Max Pechstein. Sein malerisches Werk, Munich, 1996, no. 38, illustrated in colour (titled Gartenweg)
Painted in 1910, Gartenrand is a magnificent example of Pechstein's style at the height of his involvement with the progressive artistic group Die Brücke. During the summer of 1910, Pechstein joined Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel in the Moritzburg lake region near Dresden, where the trio painted the surrounding landscape and bathers. The spontaneity of expression and the relative freedom of these compositions are indicative of the carefree tone of the paintings that Pechstein executed throughout that year.
Pechstein's choice of subject matter for the present work, a verdant landscape without any signs of urban life, reflects the aesthetic and social values that were important to the artist during this phase of his career. Fascinated by the wilderness and sublime forces of nature, the artist excluded any signs of humanity or modern civilisation, save for the red house at the end of the path. Like many other artists associated with Die Brücke, Pechstein was captivated by the beauty of the 'primitive' and the freedom of expression that these subjects elicited from him. The group opposed materialistic and bourgeois aspects of society and sought to create a 'bridge' that would lead to an authentic community of spirituality, freedom, and creativity.
Commenting on Pechstein's maturity of style in 1910, Magdalena M. Moeller has noted: 'In 1910 Pechstein's paintings reflect a consolidation of style. The artist's focus lies in strong outlines, achieving a more complete pictorial structure than in his earlier work. [...] Pechstein develops a fine sensibility for colour nuances. Specks of colour are contained within themselves whereby the artist creates a compositional order, effectively dividing the pictorial surface into separate areas' (M. M. Moeller, op. cit., p. 50, translated from German).
With its wild colouration and abstract perspective, Gartenrand is a portrayal of the natural world that demonstrates Pechstein's debt to Fauve landscapes. In style similar to the works of Nolde and Heckel of this period, it is composed with loose, spontaneous brushwork and broad dabs of paint. The steep perspective guiding the viewer's eye through the abundance of nature, towards houses that are just visible in the background is also reminiscent of paintings Heckel and Schmidt-Rottluff executed at this time.
Although it was argued among the members of Die Brücke precisely how much their work was influenced by the Fauves, Pechstein acknowledged the profound influence of his French contemporaries, having met Kees van Dongen on a trip to Paris in 1908. Living in Berlin from 1909, away from the other members of Die Brücke in Dresden, Pechstein developed a style that was regarded as more 'internationally' influenced than that of his colleagues.
Discussing Pechstein's approach to primitivism and nature in his painting, Jill Lloyd commented: 'Pechstein's primitivism, like Nolde's, was rooted in a set of European experiences and it developed within the context of the Expressionist movement several years before his departure for the South Seas. Whereas Nolde's work was provoking controversy in 1913, Pechstein was on a rising star. His genial and essentially French-oriented version of Expressionist style made him the most popular of the new generation. A crude characterisation of their respective positions seems to span across the opposing possibilities of Expressionism - with Pechstein representing the progressive internationalist trend and Nolde the 'conservative' German revival. [...] But a more detailed study of the pre-war years suggests that Pechstein's primitivism, like Nolde's, involved a complex synthesis of alternative modes, and that the difference between them was a matter of emphasis rather than absolute disparity' (J. Lloyd, German Expressionism, Primitivism and Modernity, New Haven and London, 1991, pp. 194-95).