• Impressionist/Modern Evening S auction at Christies

    Sale 7831

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    2 February 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 27

    Otto Mueller (1874-1930)


    Price Realised  


    Otto Mueller (1874-1930)
    signed 'Otto Mueller' (on the stretcher)
    distemper on burlap
    47½ x 34 5/8 in. (120.7 x 88 cm.)
    Painted circa 1927

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    This work is included in the Otto Mueller catalogue raisonné, prepared by Dr. Mario-Andreas von Lüttichau and Dr. Tanja Pirsig, under number 178.

    The nude in the landscape is the central subject of Otto Mueller's work. Its centrality in his oeuvre derives essentially from the summer of 1911, when he made his first visit to the lakes at Moritzburg in the company of fellow Brüke artists Erich Heckel and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. There, living and painting together in nature, these artists forged a group style founded on raw and spontaneously created images made in direct response to their natural environment. While other Brüke artists applied the lessons they had learned in Moritzburg to develop their work into ever new and freer forms of expression of heightened colour and pure form, Mueller sought to refine what he had learned there into a perfected vision of pure idealised form. 'My main aim' he said 'is to express my response to landscape and people with the utmost simplicity. My model was, and still is, the art of the ancient Egyptians, including its purely technical aspect' (Otto Mueller, Entartete Kunst Bildersturm vor 25 Jahren, exh. cat., Munich, 1926, unpaginated).

    Drawing on the reduction of form to the simple, almost planar elements of so-called primitive sculpture and heightening the jagged angular forms of nature into a compositional rhythm to establish echoes between the forms of the figure and those of the landscape, Mueller pursued a unique and integrated vision of Man and Nature in a state of harmony. The forms of his figures became increasingly refined and flattened, so that they began to echo the flatness and linearity of ancient Egyptian figure painting - their near-two-dimensional pose establishing a compositional elegance often reiterated by the forms of the landscape into which they were set. In order to enhance the strong sense of Arcadia that he wished to invoke, Mueller also embraced the medium of distemper painting - an ancient fresco-like medium which involves the mixing of glue into the pigment. This bestowed upon his work a unique and powerful sense of timelessness and a measured and strong material quality that conveys the image in a subtle but substantial way as it were somehow fixed in stone. This persuasive sense of timelessness was reinforced in Mueller's oeuvre by the artist's practise of very rarely dating his work and making no record of their chronology.

    Badende is thought to date from 1927, the year in which Mueller completed his work on his Zigeunermappe - a portfolio devoted to an idealised vision of the European Gypsy. Mueller had an enduring interest in the life of Europe's gypsy population seeing in them a pure and simple folk who, like the primitive, lived in accord with nature and outside of the mainstream of modern urbanised society. In the dark features and elegant, slightly elongated forms given to these two nymph-like bathers in this work, the Gypsy influence of Mueller's recent works is also perhaps discernible.

    A depiction of two naked, youthful and anonymous figures, with their dark, elegant sculpture-like forms silhouetted against the reflective blue evening light of a lake, this painting is a harminous synthesis of form, style, subject-matter and medium serving as an eloquent and enduring icon of Mueller's Arcadian dream.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.


    Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin.
    Hermann Lange, Krefeld, and thence by descent.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Cicerone, 1928, vol. XX (illustrated p. 174).
    W. Wolfradt, 'Otto Mueller', in Die Kunst, 1929, vol. 44 (illustrated p. 123).
    Das Kunstblatt, 1930, vol. XIV, p. 151.
    Kunst der Nation, 1934, vol. II, no. 1, p. 3.
    E. Troeger, Otto Mueller, Freiburg, 1949 (illustrated pl. I).
    B. Myers, Die Malerei des Expressionismus, Cologne, 1957.
    B. Myers, Expressionism: A Generation in Revolt, London, 1963 (illustrated pl. 2).
    L.G. Buchheim, Otto Mueller, Leben und Werk, Munich, 1963, no. 52, p. 289 (illustrated, titled 'Grosse Badende').


    Berlin, Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Otto Mueller, 1928.
    Breslau, Schlesisches Museum der bildenden Künste, Otto Mueller, 1931, no. 55 (illustrated).
    Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Otto Mueller, 1931, no. 1 (illustrated).
    Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Otto Mueller, September - October 1956, no. 11 (illustrated p. 7); this exhibition later travelled to Bremen, Kunsthalle.
    Hagen, Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum, Otto Mueller, 1956-1957, no. 8 (illustrated p. 9).
    Duisburg, Städtisches Museum, Otto Mueller, January - February 1957, no. 11.
    Munich, Haus der Kunst, Deutsche Kunst von 1900 bis Heute, 1957, no. 193; this exhibition later travelled to Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, December 1957 - January 1958 and Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, February - March 1958.