Die Brücke is typically considered the ‘fountainhead’ of German Expressionism. Their art sought to bridge a vital gap between past and present (hence the title ‘die brücke’, meaning ‘the bridge’). They reached back to pre-academic forms of art for inspiration, including prints and wooden sculptures, and looked to render emotion in their compositions. As such, the art is characterised by a simplified approach to form and an expressive style of execution including bold and bright colours.
Max Pechstein joined Die Brücke shortly after its inception, and is considered central to the group’s profile and achievements; financially, Pechstein was the most successful of the artists during Die Brücke’s eight-year tenure. In 1907, Pechstein spent nine months in Paris, and there was particularly struck by the art of Vincent van Gogh. Among the most famous of van Gogh’s paintings, are his compositions of Sunflowers, of which he painted a series between 1888 and 1889. When the Dutch artist was invited to exhibit in Brussels in 1890 alongside a small selection of avant-garde artists, his brother Theo insisted that he chose one from his Sunflowers series, finding them particularly enchanting: ‘I’ve put one of the Sunflowers on the mantelpiece in our dining room. It has the effect of a piece of fabric embroidered with satin and gold, it’s magnificent’ (Theo van Gogh in a letter to Vincent van Gogh, 16th July 1889).
However, van Gogh’s Sunflowers weren’t considered special by wider society; fellow artist Henry de Groux threatened to remove his own work from the 1890 exhibition rather than exhibit alongside ‘the laughable pot of sunflowers by Mr Vincent’. Sadly, it was van Gogh’s fate not ever to know how celebrated his works would be one day. Max’s Pechstein’s Sonnenblumen pays homage to the once ridiculed, later lauded, Sunflower works by Vincent van Gogh. The vibrant colours and simplified forms of the present work perfectly complement the ideals of Die Brücke and demonstrate the German artist’s commitment to the avant-garde, through recognising and celebrating the works of those before him who so boldly paved the way.
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