Although Pechstein was the first Brücke artist to move to Berlin in 1908, attracted by the dynamic urban life, he never lost his need and his romantic desire for the primitive. In his search for natural beauty Pechstein discovered Nidden, a small fishing village on the Baltic coast unfettered by the constraints of Western civilization. Pechstein immediately fell for its charming, preindustrial landscape, which allowed him to experience perfect harmony with nature. Following his first visit in 1909, Pechstein returned to Nidden repeatedly, spending the summer months in a state of great excitement and productivity. The freedom he found here led him to explore his creativity without inhibitions and develop his own, mature style, characterised by a confident mastery of form and colour.
Pechstein’s interest in radical freedom of expression and bold use of colour as well as in the exotic and ‘primitive’ was shared by fellow artists Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Together they found stimulus in a wide variety of artistic currents, including the Post- and Neo-Impressionists and particularly the Fauves. In December 1907, Pechstein travelled to Paris where he had the opportunity of meeting the Fauves and seeing their works first-hand at the Salon des Indépendents in March 1908. Pechstein became friends with Kees van Dongen, forging one of the most significant links between German Expressionism and French Fauvism. This experience, in particular, had a significant impact on Pechstein’s approach to colour.
Whilst the members of Die Brücke absorbed the influences of their French counterparts, they also invested their art with a freshness and naïvety that expressed the self-confidence of their youth. Theirs was the first distinctly German artistic movement of the twentieth century, and their bold aesthetic established Pechstein and his colleagues as a reckonable force among the European avant-garde. The group’s manifesto, written by Kirchner in 1906, heralded their revolutionary mission: ‘With faith in growth and in a new generation of creators and those who enjoy art, we call all young people together, and as the young that bear the future within it we shall create for ourselves elbowroom and freedom of life as opposed to the well-entrenched older forces. Everyone who renders directly and honestly whatever drives him to create is one of us’ (reprinted in Masterpieces of German Expressionism at the Detroit Institute of Arts, New York, 1982, p. 11).
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