Lot 380
  • 380

MAX PECHSTEIN | An der Ostsee (By the Baltic Sea)

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Max Pechstein
  • An der Ostsee (By the Baltic Sea)
  • signed HMPechstein and dated 1934 (lower right); signed HMPechstein, titled and inscribed Berlin W.62 Kurfürstenstr. 126 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 80 by 99.2cm., 31 1/2 by 39in.
  • Painted in 1934.


Private Collection, Germany (on loan to the Hessische Landesmuseum, Darmstadt)
Sale: Weinmüller, Munich, October 1966, lot 500
Galerie Thomas, Munich (by 1984-86)
Sale: Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, 8th June 1990, lot 83
Private Collection, New York (until 1991)
Sale: Grisebach, Berlin, 30th November 1991, lot 182
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Berlin, Preussische Akademie der Künste zu Berlin, 1935, no. 193 (titled Dünen an der Ostsee)
Braunschweig, Kunstverein & Kaiserslautern, Pfalzgalerie, Max Pechstein, 1982, n.n.
Berlin, Deutscher Kunsthandel im Schloss Charlottenburg, Orangerie, 1986, no. 82/3, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Munich, Gemälde-Cabinett Unger, Kunst im Dritten Reich, bewundert und verpönt, Gemälde, Aquarelle und Bronzen, 1987, n.n., illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Max Pechstein, Sein malerisches Werk (exhibition catalogue), Brücke-Museum, Berlin, Kunsthalle, Tübingen  & Kunsthalle, Kiel, 1996-7, no. 153, illustrated in colour n.p. (titled Dünen an der Ostsee)
Andrzej Czarnik, Pomorskie plenery Maxa Pechsteina, Slupsk, 2003, n.n., illustrated in colour n.p.
Aya Soika, Max Pechstein, Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, 1919-1954, Munich, 2011, vol. 2, no.1934/1, illustrated in colour p. 448
Aya Soika 'Kunstöffentlichkeit und 'innere Emigration' in: Aya Soika und Meike Hoffmann, Flucht in die Bilder? Die Künstler der Brücke im Nationalsozialismus, Munich, 2019, illustrated p. 137


Please note that there is a professional condition report for this work, please contact mariella.salazar@sothebys.com to request a copy.
"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

Painted in 1934, Max Pechstein’s An der Ostsee is a boldly coloured expressionist landscape depicting the Baltic coast. From the early 1920s, Pechstein spent each summer in this rural region of Germany and, equipped with his painting tools, relished the rural escape from the frenzied metropolis of Berlin and the realities of life under the Nazi regime. In the summer of 1934 he stayed in the small picturesque village of Leba, which sparked the artist’s imagination. Pechstein’s love for the Baltic countryside is powerfully reflected in the present work. The blues, creams and yellows imbue a sense of peace, set in contrast against the verdant meadows. Pechstein employs confident brushwork, bright colours and exaggerated forms that characterise the Die Brücke group’s approach to painting. Emanating a vibrancy which triggers the senses, the luminous sun, undulating hills and sea in the distance display nature at its finest. Under the turquoise sky, the landscape comes alive with the broad swathes of paint, immersing the viewer in Pechstein’s distinctive vision of the world. The emotional force of the imagery coincides with the German Expressionists’ desire to capture the immediate atmosphere of a scene rather than its formal qualities and exact likeness. Echoing the fundamental tenet of Impressionism, the Die Brücke artists adhered to the method of spontaneous painting en plein air but, unlike their Impressionist predecessors, their Expressionist works do not dissolve into a maze of details. As Max Osborne states, compared to the Impressionists, Pechstein’s ‘colourful expression has kept its layered flatness, but it is richer, and more lively in its structure. A stream of atmospheric and luminous elements floods into the landscape and merges with the local colours’ (Max Osborne, Max Pechstein, Berlin, 1922).

Pechstein could not leave the beauty of the Northern German countryside behind, despite many of his friends leaving for the United States due to the transformation of Germany under Nazi rule. On 13th November 1934, Pechstein wrote in a letter to his Swiss patron Dr Minnich: ‘I cannot tear myself from the Pomeranian countryside and its simple folks, to stay and work up there at the water and in the forests is like a fountain of youth for me’ His enthusiasm was also expressed in letters to fellow artist George Grosz, which included affirmations such as: ‘Yes! This is the Germany which I love fanatically and that is why I could cry’ (Bernhard Fulda & Aya Soika, The Rise and Fall of Expressionism, Berlin, 2012, p. 318)

Hailed by many as the leader of the German Expressionists, Pechstein’s use of clear forms and pure colours instil the scene with a profound feeling of harmony and simplicity. The present work invokes something of the feeling of Pechstein’s Palau paintings made after a visit to Papua New Guinea and the South Seas in 1914, and also of Paul Gauguin’s famous search for an island paradise. A work that has been in a private collection for almost thirty years, An der Ostsee exudes the Expressionist stridency of colour and vision and celebrates the open-air landscape which Pechstein held so close to his heart.