Lot 31
  • 31

Hermann Max Pechstein

Estimate
900,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
Sold
1,085,000 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Hermann Max Pechstein
  • Feuchter Tag (Humid Day)
  • signed HMP and dated 1919 (lower left); titled on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 101 by 81cm.
  • 39 3/4 by 31 7/8 in.

Provenance

Gottfried Heinersdorff, Berlin (acquired from the artist)

Private Collection, Germany (by descent from the above. Placed on loan at the Kunstmuseum, Ahlen from 2001 until 2009)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009

Exhibited

Ahlen, Kunstmuseum; Neu-Ulm, Edwin Scharff Museum & Neuss, Clemens Sels Museum, Kunst und Künstler im Wirkungskreis des Glasmalers Gottfried Heinersdorff (1883-1941), 2001, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Ahlen, Kunstmuseum, Das was man hat. Expressionistische Bildwerke aus den Beständen der Sammlung Hermann-Josef Bunte und des Kunstmuseum Ahlen, 2006

Düsseldorf, Museum Kunst Palast , Diana und Actaeon – Der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit, 2008-09, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Kiel, Kunsthalle zu Kiel; Regensburg, Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie Regensburg & Ahlen, Kunstmuseum, Max Pechstein, Ein Expressionist aus Leidenschaft, 2010-11, no. 131, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Literature

Aya Soika, Max Pechstein. Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, Munich, 2011, vol. II, no. 1919/95, illustrated in colour p. 179

Catalogue Note

Pechstein painted Feuchter Tag at Nidden in 1919 and depicted his wife Lotte and their son Frank on the shores of the Baltic sea. Nidden had long held a particular fascination for Pechstein, as its fresh, invigorating atmosphere was markedly different from the cold, heavily rationed wartime Berlin. Pechstein first visited Nidden in 1909 and returned in 1911 at the height of his involvement with the Brücke movement. It was here that he painted many of his most celebrated and brilliantly coloured canvases of bathing nudes in pseudo-exotic settings (fig. 1). Advocates of the Freikörperkultur, the nude bathing culture that swept Germany in the early twentieth century, Pechstein and his fellow Expressionists sought freedom in nature and drew inspiration from afternoons in the countryside.

As he expressed in a letter to his earliest biographer Georg Biermann in August 1919, his time in Nidden worked its charm on him once again: ‘Finally summer, I am all free and can be in my beloved Nidden, working and restoring energy, like the moss soaked with rain, turning the forest into a miracle. I am inebriated, work, sea, wife, child, I am chewing the air and I feel like breaking the brush with joy of creation. I am grateful to God for my life and I am grateful to my friends for enabling a life full of painting and drawing and without other worries’ (quoted in G. Biermann, Max Pechstein, Leipzig, 1920, vol. 1, p. 16, translated from German).

The present canvas is one of a number of works executed soon after the end of the First World War during a period of artistic rejuvenation, in which the artist revived the subject matter and palette of his pre-War style depicted in thick brushstrokes. At the outbreak of the war Pechstein had enlisted with the Royal Saxon Reserve-Infantry Regiment, and served with distinction on the Western Front. Understandably, he had little or no opportunity to paint during his time in uniform. However, in May 1917 he returned home to Berlin for good having been seconded to the Air Force as an aerial photography analyst. This move effectively safe-guarded him for the remainder of the war and may have been due to certain influential friends and patrons who petitioned for his return.

 

In June 1917 he declared to his friend Alexander Gerbig: ‘There is only one thing I still want to do, to work and only to work, to contribute to the clarification of the conditions of our time and art’ (quoted in Bernhard Fulda & Aya Soika, Max Pechstein: The Rise and Fall of Expressionism, Berlin, 2012, p. 195). By 1919, Pechstein had worked up a full head of steam and painted over a hundred works, many of them large scale canvases depicting dynamic nudes and brilliant landscapes that capture some of the artist’s post-war optimism and familial contentedness (fig. 2). He wrote to his friend Paul Fechter from Nidden: ‘I drown everything in colour, my brain is filled only with paintings, and the idea of what to paint drives me from one place to the other, already at eight in the evening I fall into bed dead tired, and yet I have still got mountains [of work] to deal with, if it were possible I would have to spend three years here without interruption and work like a horse to finish it at some point’ (quoted in ibid., p. 229).

 

The first owner of the present work was Gottfried Heinersdorff, the preeminent modern glass-painter in early twentieth century Germany. Heinersdorff had taken over the running of his father’s glass workshops at the age of seventeen, transforming the firm into the most progressive painted and stained glass manufacturer in Germany. Initially Art Nouveau in style, the designs he produced continued to evolve and accommodate changing artistic ideas and Heinersdorff encouraged avant-garde artists, such as Max Pechstein, Adolf Hölzel, Josef Albers and Cesar Klein to create cartoons that could be translated into glass. The present work remained with Heinersdorff’s heirs until 2009 when it was acquired by the present owner.

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