- Max Liebermann
- Muschelfischer (Graue See) (Mussel fisher (grey sea))
- signed M Liebermann (lower left)
- oil on panel
- 63 by 75cm., 24 3/4 by 29 1/2 in.
Galerie Tannhauser, Munich (acquired in 1911)
Oscar Hermes, Munich (acquired in 1914)
Leipziger Kunstverein, Leipzig (until 1915)
Victor Klinkhardt, Braunschweig
Museum, Braunschweig (bequeathed from the above circa 1923)
Erich Pfeiffer, Hanover (acquired from the above on 18th February 1942)
Edith Backhaus, Bremen
Erich Pfeiffer, Hanover (acquired from the above in 1951)
E. Unger, Hamburg
Private Collection, Berlin
Thence by descent to the present owner in 1999
"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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
After 1900, Liebermann’s beach scenes were increasingly populated by holiday-makers strolling along the waterline, riders and children playing in the sand. Unlike the majority of paintings from this period, Muschelfischer (Graue See) does not portray a scene of leisure but a figure at work. The central figure stands in the shallow water, his trousers rolled up to his knees and with his back to the viewer. He is unaware of the painter’s attention, fully immersed in his task and caught mid-movement whilst trailing the water in search of mussels. A group of bathers to the right draws the viewers gaze into the distance and creates a stark contrast to the working figure in the foreground. They seem to enjoy the last hours of sunlight and are half-immersed within the water, a compositional feature conveying a sense of depth.
Muschelfischer (Graue See) is one of two works Liebermann executed on this specific subject. His immediate impressionistic rendering of the scene and the quick impasto brushstrokes might suggest that he painted the piece en plein-air as was customary for the artist. Working in situ allowed the artist a naturalistic portrayal of fleeting moments and the forces of nature. The way Liebermann captured the raw character of the waves and gleaming sunlight enables the viewer to feel the wind, heavy with countless drops of sea-spray. This effect, enhanced by the sheer size of the canvas and cropped composition, allows the onlooker to stand on the beach with the artist and experience this moment through his eyes.