Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)


Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)
signed 'S. Rottluff' (lower right); signed again and titled 'Schmidt-Rottluff Apfelbäume' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
30 x 33¼ in. (76.2 x 84.4 cm.)
Painted in 1910
Dr. O. Kirchner, Gelsenkirchen.
Private collection, Germany (by descent from the above); sale, Villa Grisebach, Berlin, 4 June 1993, lot 23.
Private collection, Berlin (acquired at the above sale).
W. Grohmann, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Stuttgart, 1956, p. 283 (illustrated, p. 254).
L. G. Buchheim, Die Künstlergemeinschaft Brücke, Dresden, 1957, p. 254 (illustrated).
G. Wietek, Der Maler der Brücke in Dangast von 1901 bis 1912, Oldenburg, 1957, no. 35 (illustrated, p. 54).
G. Wietek, Schmidt-Rottluff-Oldenburger Jahre 1907-1912, Oldenburg, 1994, p. 393 (illustrated).
Malmö, Konsthall, Die Brücke-Edvard Munch, 1979, p. 34.

Lot Essay

The bold and colorful landscapes of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff represent some of the most seminal works of Die Brücke movement. The present painting, executed in 1910, a vibrantly-colored, expressive work, embodies a pure example of German Expressionist painting.

As Barry Herbert has commented on a work painted by the artist the previous summer, "His work reached an extreme pitch of emotional intensity in its semi-abstract handling of form and color without ever quite losing contact with tangible reality. The brilliantly colored, loosely applied paint communicates that feverish involvement with the subject that distinguished the young German artist's vision from the more impersonal approach favored by Matisse, and identified him as, above all, a direct successor to van Gogh and Munch" (B. Herbert, German Expressionism, Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter, London, 1983, p. 118).

Van Gogh's dramatic influence on the German Expressionist movement is well-documented. Most specifically, Brücke artists had the opportunity to carefully study an exhibition of fifty paintings by van Gogh in Dresden in November 1905. Van Gogh's color theory, as articulated in the following 1889 letter to Emile Bérnard, was clearly a seminal influence upon the work of Schmidt-Rottluff. As van Gogh described his canvas he noted, "The edge of the garden is planted with large pines with red-ochre trunks and branches, the green foliage darkened with a mixture of black. These tall trees stand out against a yellow evening sky crossed with purple stripes, the yellow yielding to pink and green higher up. A wall--also red ochre-bars the view and only a purple and yellow-ochre hill appears above it" (The letters of Vincent van Gogh, New York, 1996 p. 470).

The violent colors and energetic brushstrokes of Apfelbäume reveal not only Schmidt-Rottluff's interest in the work of the post-Impressionists and Fauves, but also the inspiration he found in the raw beauty of the landscape. Indeed the year of 1910 is recognized as one of the most creative periods in Schmidt-Rottluff's career and the works from this period are widely recognized as among the most important in German Expressionist art.

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