- August Macke
FRAUEN IM PARK (MIT WEISSEM SCHIRM)
(WOMEN IN A PARK - WITH A WHITE PARASOL)
- titled Frauen im Park and dated 1913 on the reverse
oil on board
Dr Richard Koch, Frankfurt am Main
Hermann Lange, Krefeld (acquired by 1934)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Frankfurt, Kunstverein, Gedächtnis-Ausstellung August Macke, 1920, no. 40
Wiesbaden, Neues Museum, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Gedächtnis-Ausstellung August Macke, 1920, no. 40
Munich, Haus der Kunst, München 1869-1958, Aufbruch zur modernen Kunst, 1958, no. 1064
Munich, Galerie Stangl, Meisterwerke des deutschen Expressionismus, 1967, illustrated in the catalogue
Bonn, Städtisches Kunstmuseum; Krefeld, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Museum & Wuppertal, Von der Heydt-Museum, Die Rheinischen Expressionisten, August Macke und seine Malerfreunde, 1979, no. 233, illustrated in the catalogue
Münster, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte; Bonn, Städtisches Kunstmuseum & Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, August Macke, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, 1986-87, no. 105, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Gustav Vriesen, August Macke, Stuttgart, 1953, no. 374
Gustav Vriesen, August Macke, Stuttgart, 1957, no. 374, illustrated p. 328
Ernst-Gerhard Güse, August Macke: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Munich, 1986, no. 105, illustrated in colour p. 262
Ursula Heiderich, August Macke, Gemälde, Werkverzeichnis, Ostfildern, 2008, no. 477, illustrated p. 465
Frauen im Park (mit weissem Schirm) is one of the most striking oils dating from the pinnacle of Macke's short but intense career. While he never embraced a purely abstract painterly manner, during 1913 – the year this work was executed – he reached a high point of experimentation with colour and form. In its wild, bold use of colour and a dramatic composition, Frauen im Park (mit weissem Schirm) is among his most beautiful Blaue Reiter paintings. The composition is focused around the figures of two women, whose strongly painted and contrasting garments set them apart from each other and from the background of rising trees that dominates the painting. The work displays Macke's virtuosity in colour modulations, particularly in the fiery, saturated hues of green, yellow and blue, which are set apart by volume, tone and light qualities rather than through strict linear separations.
This magnificent painting reflects an array of influences that played a key role in the development of Macke's own, unique style. The use of bright, radiant tones and their application in wide, spontaneous brush strokes show Macke's debt to the Fauve painters, while the overlapping, broken down planes clearly reflect Paul Klee's influence. Macke was one of the first members of Der Blaue Reiter group to recognise the importance of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, and to adapt the colour-theories of the French avant-garde artists to his own style. He first visited Paris in 1907, but it was not until 1909 that he saw the works of the Fauve artists, whose bold use of vibrant colours had a strong impact on him. The most immediate and profound influence, however, was that of Robert Delaunay, whom Macke met during his last trip to Paris in 1912. Delaunay's progressive pictorial technique, in which the planes of colour rather than objects constituted the main structural element of his paintings, became the basis of Macke's own artistic experimentations. In the present work, this influence is visible mainly in the trees that form a dramatic backdrop to the scene. The steep perspective leading from the path in the foreground to the tall trees rising vertiginously to the top is reminiscent of Delaunay's dramatic depictions of the Eiffel Tower (fig. 1).
The central theme of Macke's mature period was people walking on a street or in a park (figs. 2 & 3). Unlike other Expressionists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Macke's representations of the city have a soft tone, and his figures appear to be at ease with their environment. As Wieland Schmied commented: 'August Macke was much more of a wanderer than Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and he walked through the streets of the city as if it were another form of nature. At first the city was nothing more than a nature 'tamed'. He was especially interested in the vegetation, the parks, the zoo with its zebras, herons and parrots... August Macke always presents domesticated nature, the town is permeated by nature, reconciled with her, with an abundance of open spaces and bordered by parks' (W. Schmied, German Art in the 20th Century (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 36).
Although Macke's paintings often focus on the depiction of male and female figures, often promenading in groups, he shows no interest in their individuality, their facial features or expressions. Whilst retaining the recognisable, figurative subject matter, he shows an increasing move towards abstraction. As in the present work, Macke relied on form and colour to communicate meaning and emotion, the composition has its own internal structure of pictorial means independent of naturalistic devices and details. Influenced by contemporary trends towards abstraction, Macke kept the traditional theme of figures in a landscape, but broke them down into basic pictorial elements of colour and form. It was in 1913 that colour became the single most important element of his painting, so boldly and masterfully exemplified by the present work. Macke wrote in 1913: 'The most important thing for me is the direct observation of nature in its light-filled existence... What I most cherish is the observation of the movement of colours. Only in this have I found the laws of those simultaneous and complementary colour contrasts that nourish the actual rhythm of my vision. In this I find the actual essence' (quoted in Gustav Vriesen, August Macke, Stuttgart, 1953, p. 120, translated from German).
Fig. 1, Robert Delaunay, Tour Eiffel, 1911, oil on canvas, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Fig. 2, August Macke, Sonniger Weg, 1913, oil on card, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster
Fig. 3, August Macke, Promenade, 1913, oil on card, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich