Otto Mueller (1874-1930)
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Otto Mueller (1874-1930)

Liegender Mädchenakt am Waldrand

Otto Mueller (1874-1930)
Liegender Mädchenakt am Waldrand
signed 'Otto Mueller' (lower right)
watercolour, wash and wax crayon on paper
20½ x 26 5/8 in. (52 x 67.7 cm.)
Executed circa 1926
Otto Ralfs, Braunschweig, by the late 1920s.
Private collection, Germany, and thence by descent to the present owner.
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Lot Essay

This work is included in the Mueller catalogue raisonné by Dr Mario-Andreas von Lüttichau and Dr Tanja Pirsig, under no. 844.

From 1924 to 1927 Mueller spent consecutive summers travelling in Eastern Europe, through the Balkans, Romania and Hungary, spending a prolonged period of time in Szolnok, near Budapest, which he spent in part with local Roma and Sinti communities. These trips were to influence and deepen the Romantic, bucolic strain of his work, not only refining the direction of his oeuvre but also encouraging his rustic-utopian vision of life, such that he would declare that 'the chief goal of my endeavour is to express my feelings for landscape and for people with the greatest possible simplicity.' (quoted in Mario-Andreas von Lüttichau, Otto Mueller: Ein Romantiker unter den Expressionisten, DuMont, Cologne, 1993, p. 70).

The female nude is a frequent and considered motif in Mueller's work, showing the influence, in form, of the sculpture of Wilhelm Lehmbruck, with whom he had contact in Berlin, and a spiritual relationship to Paul Gauguin's works. Mueller's style also recalls that of Max Pechstein, who he joined in forming the Novembergruppe in 1918 in response to the German Revolution of that year. The reclining figure in the present lot is a study that exemplifies Mueller's singularly tranquil Expressionism, speaking of lyricism, isolated rusticity and evoking an ideal and sensuously innocent Arcadia. It projects an image of his art as an act of true communion between artist, nature and the romantic outsider, which can be understood as a symbol for key Expressionist notions of freedom.

In 1910, Mueller became a member of the influential group Die Brücke, founded in Dresden in 1905, which comprised amongst others, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Pechstein, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmitt-Rottluff. Kirchner admired Mueller and made several portraits of him, claiming in his chronicle of 1913 that 'the sensual harmony of his life and work made Mueller a natural member of Die Brücke'. Mueller's manifesto declared a desire to search for authenticity, particularly promoting the positive values of so-call primitive art.

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