Lot 7
  • 7

Wilhelm Lehmbruck

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
748,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Wilhelm Lehmbruck
  • inscribed LEHMBRUCK

  • cast stone


(probably) Hermann Wurz, Stuttgart
Max Lütze, Berlin & Hamburg
Erna Lütze, Hamburg & Stuttgart (by descent from the above in 1968)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1976


Venice, Esposizione municipale d'arte, 1922, no. 93
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (on loan 1972-1976)
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Stationen der Moderne, 1988, illustrated in the catalogue


Dietrich Schubert, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Catalogue Raisonné der Skulpturen, 1898-1919, Worms, 2001, no. 50 A 8, illustrated p. 189

Catalogue Note

'Sculpture, like all art, is the greatest expression of our time.' (Wilhelm Lehmbruck)

Executed in Paris in 1910, Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.) marks a pivotal point in Lehmbruck's œuvre. The present work brilliantly defines the attenuation and elongation that was to become Lehmbruck's defining sculptural characteristic. The sensitive use of the features of the stone cast creates a deep unity of the contents and the moulding. The nude figure with her graceful bust and elegantly elongated neck supporting her head slightly tilted to one side conveys a sense of innocence and pensiveness whilst simultaneously emanating a smooth sexual tension and sensuality.

The present work was exhibited in 1922 in Venice and was later acquired by Max Lütze, a collector of German Expressionist art who concentrated on the development of sculpture and painting of the 20th century. There are only nine recorded life-time and early stone casts of Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.), six of them are now housed in important museum collections: the Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the Museum Lodz, Lodz; the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin and the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt. One remains in the artist's family and in addition to the present cast there is one other in a private collection.

A cast of Lehmbruck's important Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.) was owned by one of the most influential art critics and art historians of his time, Julius Meier-Graefe (fig. 2). After extensive studies in the History of Art, the German art historian wrote numerous monographs and essays on major Impressionist artists and became one of the most influential pioneers and connoisseurs of Impressionism of the early 20th century.

In Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.) Lehmbruck moves towards an internalisation of expression whereby his depiction of elongated limbs becomes a symbol of the spiritual. The concentration on the head and bust of the figure further enhances the smooth contours whereby the model's long slender neck evokes diaphanous grace. As the title Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.) suggests, the present cast features the artist's wife Anita, whom he married in 1908. In fact all his female figures between 1909 and 1917 bear the features of his wife, but none as pronounced as the present work.

1910 marks Lehmbruck's unification of form whereby the artist has internalised his object of representation. The artist searches for the grand form whereby his rendition of forms and shapes does not lose itself in the naturalism of detail. The artist's ultimate artistic aim in the present work is the orchestration of the concavities of the woman's head, her breasts and her shoulders, which reflect the light on large surfaces. Exact representation plays a secondary part in this process. The artist's finest work was concentrated into one decade - the years between 1910 and the artist's untimely death in 1919 - and Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.) stands as the distinguished point of departure. Wilhelm Lehmbruck became one of the most prominent German Expressionist sculptors. His works were extensively exhibited, including at the Cologne Sonderbund and the Berliner Sezession (1912), and his monumental works Grosse Kniende and Grosse Schreitende, were exhibited in 1913 in New York, making him the only German sculptor represented at the Armory Show (fig. 3).

After studying at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art, Lehmbruck moved to Paris in 1910, where he lived at 105, rue de Vagiraud. There he frequented the Café du Dôme, where he met sculptors such as Brancusi, Archipenko and Modigliani and was also introduced to the process of stone-casting, a technique already practised by Brancusi at the time. With its diversity of stimulation and its atmosphere pulsating with ever new artistic ideals, Paris was the ideal arena for Lehmbruck to develop his style. Having been an admirer of Rodin's work since 1904 and having met Aristide Maillol in 1910, Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.) is a fine example of how Lehmbruck received stimuli from both artists. Dietrich Schubert noted on Lehmbruck's fascination with Maillol: 'Like Maillol, Lehmbruck became fascinated with the introvert qualities of a figure whereby he concentrated on portraying his models in a composed, sensual state being at one with their spiritual centre' (Dietrich Schubert, Die Kunst Lehmbrucks, Worms, 1990, p. 118, translated from German). Formally less voluptuous than a Maillol, yet rounded and sensual and expressively more delicate than a Rodin, Frauenbüste (Büste Frau L.) is intensely quiet and pensive, if not melancholic.