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    Sale 7701

    Impressionist/Modern Art, Evening Sale

    4 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 31

    Otto Mueller (1874-1930)

    Sitzender Akt in Landschaft

    Price Realised  


    Otto Mueller (1874-1930)
    Sitzender Akt in Landschaft
    signed with the initials 'OM.' (lower left); signed again 'Otto Mueller' (on the reverse)
    distemper on burlap
    43½ x 30½ in. (110.5 x 77.6 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 319.

    The nude in the landscape is the central subject of Otto Mueller's work and derives essentially from the summer of 1911 when he made his first visit to the lakes at Moritzburg in the company of fellow Brücke artists Erich Heckel and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. There, living and painting together in nature, these artists together forged a group style founded on raw and spontaneously created images made in direct response to nature. While other Brücke 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 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 reduced forms and simple, almost planar elements of so-called primitive sculpture and heightening the forms of nature into a jagged angular compositional rhythm that establishes 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 formal harmony. 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. Distemper bestowed upon his work a measured and strongly material quality and a sense of timelessness which conveyed the image in a subtle but substantial way as if it were somehow fixed in stone. This persuasive sense of timelessness was something that was reinforced in Mueller's oeuvre by the artist's practice of very rarely dating his work and of making no record of their chronology.

    Sitzender Akt in Landschaft 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, who through his mother was himself of Gypsy descent, had an enduring interest in the life of Europe's gypsy population, who lived outside of the mainstream of modern urbanized society, like the Brücke artist themselves. In the dark features given to the face of the nymph-like girl in this work, it is perhaps possible to see a Gypsy influence or an echo of these recent works.

    Centring on the elegant seated form of a young girl sitting naked in a forest, her figure delineated with the simplest of outlines, this picture conveys an overwhelming sense of raw and simple nature. Like an ancient dryad or wood nymph, the singular presence of this girl exudes a natural strength and vigour that seemingly derives from the forest itself. Her presence is one that, allied to the integrated rhythm of Mueller's heavy material brush strokes and the simple directness and straightforwardness of the composition establishes this work as an eloquent and enduring icon of Mueller's Arcadian dream.

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    Galerie Goldschmidt und Wallerstein, Berlin (no. 1505).
    Aquired from the above by the father of the present owner circa 1930.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Munich, A 11 Art Forum Thomas, Otto Mueller, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Graphik, May - July 1988 (illustrated p. 13).
    Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Otto Mueller. Eine Retrospektive, March - June 2003, no. 82 (illustrated).