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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION

Selbstbild (Kopf)

Selbstbild (Kopf)
signed 'Felixmuller.' (upper right); signed, dated and numbered 'Felixmuller 1922 No. 291.' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
19 7/8 x 15 7/8 in. (50.5 x 40.5 cm.)
Painted in 1922
Private collection, North Germany, by 1978.
The artist's handlist, as 'grobe Leinewand selbstgrdt'.
H. Spielmann, ed., Conrad Felixmüller: Monographie und Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde, Cologne, 1996, no. 291, p. 243 (illustrated).
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Das Bild des Künstlers - Selbstdarstellungen, June - August 1978, no. 101a (illustrated p. 59).
Hamburg, Interversa, Conrad Felixmüller: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Ein expressiver Realist eigener Prägung, May - July 1981, no. 15, p. 14 (illustrated p. 5); this exhibition later travelled to Bayreuth, 1981; and Moers, 1981.
Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Das Selbstporträt im Zeitalter der Fotografie. Maler und Fotografen im Dialog mit sich selbst, September - October 1985, no. 148.
Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Art in Berlin: 1815-1989, November 1989 - January 1990, no. 136, pp. 219 & 249 (illustrated p. 219).
Leicester, Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery, Between Politics and the Studio: Conrad Felixmüller, September - October 1994, no. 27, p. 48 (illustrated on the frontispiece).
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Conrad Felixmüller: His Dresden Years, March - May 1995, no. 22, p. 30.
Dresden, Städtische Galerie, Conrad Felixmüller - Peter August Böckstiegel, Arbeitswelten, September 2006 - January 2007, p. 48 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Bielefeld, Kunsthalle, February - May 2007.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Conrad Felixmüller is one of the leading figures in what is sometimes called the 'second generation' of Expressionists whose work coalesced around the revolutionary period in Germany following the First World War. Together with his much-celebrated portraits of daily life in the mining district of the Ruhrgebiet in the early 1920s, it is Felixmüller's portraits of himself and his family from this same period that constitute his best-known and most important body of work. Representing a counterbalance to the powerful and yet depressing scenes of hardship and depravation found in his Ruhr pictures, Felixmüller's portraits of his family and the idyll of his home-life were intended to provide a positive alternative: one that proclaimed the simple value and harmony of his own progressive proletarian lifestyle.

Born the son of an industrial blacksmith, Felixmüller had married the aristocrat baroness Londa Freiin von Berg in 1918 and would enjoy a long and happy marriage. A fierce opponent of the war and a committed socialist, Felixmüller had joined the German Communist party in 1918 and would remain a member until 1926. As he had written in an autobiographical essay in Die Aktion in 1920, the birth of his first son Luca in 1918, at the same time as the outbreak of the German Revolution, was to have a profound effect on him. He had felt keenly 'the spiritual situation of the age', he wrote 'the catastrophical end of the war and at the same time the development of the fruit. Revolution! it was in him like the unborn life in his wife's body. Indeed, child and revolution had come into being at the same time … the momentous event of the birth of a human being and the simultaneous beginning of the great revolution lifted him up and carried him away wiping out the last trace of the bourgeois from within him; He was once again a simple man and a proletarian.' (Conrad Felixmüller, 'Der Prolet (Pönnecke)' in Die Aktion Nr. 23/24, December, 1920)

It is this 'simple man and a proletarian' that Felixmüller depicts in Selbstbild (Kopf) of 1922. The painting is one of several dramatic self-images from this period that depict the artist absorbed in the act of painting and observing. Characteristic of his Expressionist style, this act of looking is subtly emphasised by the slightly exaggerated magnification given to his right eye looking intently through the lens of his glasses.

Depicting himself, smartly-attired in collar and tie but also demonstrably unshaven, Felixmüller's refreshingly natural self-depiction aims to emphasise his role as that of a simple, hard-working man. The artist is, he suggests, a proletarian figure not at all dissimilar from the workers he had recently met in the Ruhr mining district, but also one who, unlike them, was happily unoppressed by the interference of the ruling powers and able to live a simple, fruitful life of creativity and productivity. Proud of this idyllic and simple home life, Felixmüller sought, through such emphatically honest and direct portraiture to conjure a proletarian ideal that would, he hoped, carry a positive, political message. The idea that a man's concentration on honest labour and the simple values and virtues of the family would, in the new post-revolutionary Germany, eventually lead to 'the emancipation of our class.'

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