Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
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Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)

Sitzender Mann

Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
Sitzender Mann
signed and dated 'M.Pechstein 09' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. (65.1 x 49.9 cm.)
Painted in Nidden in 1909
Private collection, Berlin (gift from the artist).
Private collection, Berlin (by descent from the above).
Robert G. Osborne, Inc., New York (by 1970).
Edward Benenson, New York (acquired from the above, September 1972).
Gift from the estate of the above to the present owner.
A. Soika, Max Pechstein: Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, 1905-1918, Munich, 2011, vol. I, p. 197, no. 1909/41 (illustrated in color).
Durham, Duke University Museum of Art, Selected Works from the Benenson Collection, June 1976 (illustrated in color; titled Old Man).

Lot Essay

Pechstein painted Sitzender Mann in 1909 on the first of many visits to Nidden, a small fishing village on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The artist would continue to return to this harbor town, which provided escape from the industrial world and the sociopolitical turmoil that followed the First World War. As Fehnmarn did for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Alsen for Emil Nolde, Nidden served as a place of refuge from the city and source of inspiration for Pechstein. The artist was charmed by Nidden’s pine forest and rugged coastline, and this seaside village proved to be the perfect setting for his studies of man in nature. Pechstein was particularly drawn to the rural costumes, customs and lifestyle of the local people. As with many of the Expressionists, he was fascinated with all aspects of folk art and with any culture that differed from the urban bourgeois. The present painting of a seated man is likely one of the portraits of Nidden fishermen that the artist painted in the summer of 1909. In a letter to fellow painter Erich Heckel, Pechstein wrote of these fishermen, and of his difficulty in painting their portraits: “Unfortunately the best heads do not want to be painted, and they notice that they are being drawn they start to scold me and leave, but I have already caught a few" (quoted in A. Soika, op. cit., p. 197).
In the present work, the artist captures the likeness of a humble fisherman sitting in a dune, rendered with clear forms and vibrant, contrasting colors. The rich palette and deeply textured impasto construct a composition both intimate and energetic. As a result, this simple scene is imbued with simplicity, tonal harmony and human pathos. These qualities distinguished Pechstein’s paintings from those of his contemporaries; as P. Vergo wrote, "Pechstein's works of the years around 1910 are quite distinct in style from those of the other members of Die Brücke group, and display by comparison with theirs a remarkable sureness in the handling of form, and economy and concentration of pictorial means" (The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection of Twentieth-Century German Painting, London, 1992, p. 234).

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