Lot 27
  • 27

Max Liebermann

350,000 - 550,000 GBP
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  • Max Liebermann
  • Zwei Reiter am Strand nach links (Two Riders on the Beach to the left)
  • signed M. Liebermann and dated 1901 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 72 by 92cm.
  • 28 3/8 by 36 1/4 in.


(probably) Kunsthandel Paul Cassirer, Berlin

David Friedmann, Berlin & Breslau (probably acquired from the above by 1905 and until at least 1939)

Sale: Auktionshaus Hermann Petschel, Breslau, July 1942

Dr Cornelius Müller Hofstede of the Schlesisches Museum der Bildenden Künste, Breslau (acquired from the above and stored with the Schlesisches Museum under inventory no. 28321)

Dr Hildebrand Gurlitt, Dresden and later Düsseldorf (acquired from the above in August or September 1942)

Confiscated by the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives section from Dr Gurlitt’s storage at Schloss Aschbach, Bamberg and transferred to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point on 6th December 1945 (inv. no. WIE 1930)

Returned to Dr Hildebrand Gurlitt on 15th December 1950

By descent to Helene Gurlitt, Düsseldorf in 1960

By descent to their son Cornelius Gurlitt, Munich

Restituted by the Estate of Cornelius Gurlitt to the heirs of David Friedmann in 2015


Berlin, Ausstellungshaus der ‘Berliner Secession’, III. Ausstellung der Berliner Secession, 1901, no. 166, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Reiter am Strande)

Frankfurt, Kunstsalon Hermes, 1901

Düsseldorf, Neuerbauten Dauernden Kunstausstellungsgebäude, Deutsch-National Kunst-Ausstellung, 1902, no. 633

Berlin, Paul Cassirer, VIII. Jahrgang, II. Ausstellung, 1905, no. 25

Berlin, Secession, Schwarz-Weiss-Ausstellung, 1906, no. 1872

Berlin, Ausstellungshaus am Kurfürstendamm, XIII. Ausstellung der Berliner Secession, 1907, no. 138 (titled Reiter am Meer)

Berlin, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Max Liebermann. Ausstellung zum 70. Geburtstage des Künstlers, 1917, no. 126, illustrated in the catalogue

Berlin, Preussische Akademie der Künste, Max Liebermann. Hundert Werke des Künstlers zu seinem 80. Geburtstage, 1927, no. 45

Hanover, Landesgalerie; Hamburg, Kunstverein; Düsseldorf, Kunstverein & Bremen, Kunsthalle, Max Liebermann, 1954, no. 42, illustrated in the catalogue

Recklinghausen, Städtische Kunsthalle; Vienna & Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Berlin – Ort der Freiheit der Kunst, 1960, no. 13


Hans Rosenhagen, ‘Die dritte Ausstellung der Berliner Secession', in Kunst für Alle, 1900-01, illustrated p. 473

Julius Norden, ‘Von den grossen Berliner Kunstausstellungen, II', in Die Gegenwart, vol.  59, no. 21, 25th May 1901, mentioned p. 335

Franz Imhof, ‘Berliner Kustausstellungen – Die Ausstellung der "Sezession" II', in Die Kunst-Halle, 5th June 1901, mentioned p. 268

‘Kunstchronik', in Die Kunst-Halle, no. 18, 20th June 1901, p. 287

Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, 1901, illustrated p. 205

Der Kunstwart, 1st November 1902, illustrated after p. 128

Aemil Fendler, ‘Max Liebermann', in Illustrirte Zeitung, no. 3105, 1st January 1903, illustrated p. 32

Georg Hermann, ‘Max Liebermann', in Martin Buber (ed.), Jüdische Künstler, Berlin, 1903, illustrated p. 131

Der Kunstwart, 1909-10, vol. 22, illustrated n.p.

Gustav Pauli, Max Liebermann. Des Meisters Gemälde, Stuttgart, 1911, illustrated p. 132

Karl Scheffler, Max Liebermann, Munich, 1912, no. 39, illustrated

Erich Hancke, Max Liebermann. Sein Leben und seine Werke, Berlin, 1914, p. 539

Alfred Gold, ‘Max Liebermann – Berlin', in Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, 1916-17, illustrated p. 43

Gustav Pauli, Max Liebermann. Des Meisters Gemälde, Berlin, 1922, illustrated p. 51

Wilhelm F. Burr, Max Liebermann, Berlin, 1925, illustrated pl. 11

Arthur Galliner, Max Liebermann, der Künstler und der Führer, Frankfurt, 1927, illustrated

Hans Rosenhagen, Max Liebermann, Bielefeld & Leipzig, 1927, illustrated p. 59

André Levinson, ‘Les Quatre-Vingts Ans de Max Liebermann', in La Renaissance de l'Art Français, January 1928, illustrated p. 14

Hans Ostwald, Das Liebermann-Buch, Berlin, 1930, no. 194, illustrated p. 375

Karl Scheffler, Max Liebermann, Wiesbaden, 1953, no. 39, illustrated

Richard Hamann & Jost Hermand, Impressionismus, Berlin, 1960, illustrated p. 72

Matthias Eberle, Max Liebermann, Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde und Ölstudien, Munich, 1996, vol. II, no. 1901/14, illustrated in colour p. 571

Bernhard Echte & Walter Feilchenfeldt, Kunstsalon Cassirer. Die Ausstellungen 1898-1905, Wädenswil, 2011, vol. II, no. 25, illustrated p. 77


The canvas is strip-lined. There are a few minor small spots of retouching to the centre of the upper framing edge, a line of tiny spots of retouching in the centre of the sky, and a few scattered small spots of retouching in the sea, sky and beach visible under ultra-violet light. There is an older generation of retouching in the coat of the rider on the right and his horse's neck, faintly visible under ultra-violet light. Apart from some lines of stable craquelure, mainly in the lower right, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although slightly richer and more vibrant in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Zwei Reiter am Strand nach links was probably executed in Liebermann’s studio in Berlin, following several studies made during his stay in Scheveningen on the Dutch coast. Liebermann stayed at Scheveningen during the summer of 1900, and returned there the following summer. During the time spent at this fashionable resort, Liebermann found inspiration for his paintings in scenes of riders and tennis players on the beach, and executed numerous drawings and sketches. The present work was one of the first large-scale oils of this subject.

In the present composition, the riders are in casual riding attire, crossing the beach of the seaside resort; the horse in the foreground trots placidly on the sand while the other appears unsettled, his hoofs submerged in water.  The scene is captured at the moment when the rider in the front turns towards his companion, whose horse prances skittishly, avoiding the waves. The composition derives its dynamic from the subtle differences in the movement of the horses and their riders, as well as from the powerful depiction of the animals against the waves and the grey sky. In his sketches executed in Scheveningen Liebermann developed images of riders on both calm and nervous horses, and here the two are combined to create a subtle, yet powerful composition.

Images of horses and riders featured in Liebermann’s art throughout his career, in scenes depicting horse races and polo games. However, they are rarely depicted with such elegance and poise as in the present work. A contemporary critic described the scene: ‘They are two riders from the Circus Schumann, which is open all summer in Scheveningen. The horses are trained every morning on the beach, as the soft sand makes a great riding runway. It is thus a mundane activity which has been upgraded by the artist’s hand. The whole picture is full of life and dynamism: the morning light surrounding the horses, the white-tipped waves, the cool breeze that plays with the horses’ manes’ (‘Zu unseren Bildern’, in Berliner Architekturwelt, 1902, issue 9, p. 330).

The present work was extensively exhibited during the artist’s life-time. It was first shown in the public in 1901, the year it was painted, at the Berlin Secession, an artists’ association founded in 1898, for which Liebermann served as the first president. Zwei Reiter am Strand nach links and another painting with a Dutch motif were selected to represent Liebermann at the third Secession exhibition in 1901. Hans Rosenhagen, a contemporary art critic reviewing the show, wrote about Zwei Reiter am Strand nach links: ‘The horses […] wonderful in the movement, especially the farther one which is made nervous by the water underneath its hoofs and thereby engages the rider. Fine silhouettes of the dark riders against the moving sea and the grey air’ (H. Rosenhagen, ‘Die dritte Ausstellung der Berliner Secession’ in Kunst für Alle, vol. XVI, 1900-01, p. 472, translated from German).

Liebermann approached his paintings with a spontaneity and palette that were clearly indebted to the French Impressionists, and in its subject matter and style of execution the present work evokes the painting of Edgar Degas (fig. 2). Barbara C. Gilbert has written about Liebermann’s production at the turn of the century, when his style was at its most experimental: ‘Although Liebermann was preoccupied by his duties in the Berlin Secession from 1899 until 1911, this phase proved to be the most adventuresome and experimental of his painting career. He had achieved his most inventive and exuberant body of work, in a series that explored aspects of painting beyond a direct portrayal of a subject. […] This more experimental period of Liebermann’s career coincides with his expanding rise as an art theorist and writer. Each artist must look closely at the life around him, he wrote, and have the courage and freedom to interpret it from his own perspective: “Nature viewed by all artists according to their individuality remains fundamental – the alpha and omega.” Such an attitude allied him with the avant-garde and set him in opposition to the official, academic art community. Liebermann took advantage of his position in the Berlin Secession to promote his theories in speeches, in written introductions to Secession catalogues, in essays in art journals, and in books published by Bruno Cassirer’ (B. C. Gilbert, Max Liebermann, From Realism to Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), Skirball Center, Los Angeles & Jewish Museum, New York, 2005-06, pp. 43-44).