MAX PECHSTEIN (1881-1955)
MAX PECHSTEIN (1881-1955)
MAX PECHSTEIN (1881-1955)
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MAX PECHSTEIN (1881-1955)


MAX PECHSTEIN (1881-1955)
signed with initials and dated 'HMP 09' (lower right)
oil on board
15 1⁄8 x 18 1⁄8 in. (38.4 x 46 cm.)
Painted in 1909
Robert Graetz, Berlin (by 1928).
Hilda Rush (Ruschkewitz née Graetz), Johannesburg (by whom given from the above, 1935).
Dr. H.K. Silberberg, Johannesburg.
Private collection (acquired from the above, October 1943, then by descent); sale, Christie’s, London, 22 June 2004, lot 41.
Private collection, United States (acquired at the above sale).

Please note that the present work is being offered for sale pursuant to a settlement agreement between the current owner and heir of Robert Graetz. The settlement agreement resolves the dispute over ownership of the work and title will pass to the successful bidder.
A. Soika, Max Pechstein: Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, 1905-1918, Munich, 2011, vol. I, p. 158, no. 1909/2 (illustrated in color).

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1909 when Max Pechstein moved from Dresden to Berlin, Stilleben belongs to a short but significant period in the artist's career, which rarely appears at auction. Brücke works of this type by other members of the group, notably Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner are more common. In the spring of 1909 Pechstein submitted two still lifes and a landscape to the Berlin Seccession: Gelbe Tulpen, Landschaft and Gelbes Tuch. Not only did the works sell, they were widely acclaimed by contemporary critics, who made favorable comparisons with the work of Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh (P. Selz, German Expressionist Painting, Los Angeles, 1957, p. 110).
The bright palette of the present work and the Brücke style in general, prompt comparison with the Fauves in Paris. Pechstein certainly met Kees van Dongen in Paris in 1907 but did not mix with the wider Matisse school, which included fellow Germans, Hans Purrmann, Oskar Moll and Rudolf Grossmann. However, the Henri Matisse exhibition organised in Berlin by Paul Cassirer in January 1909, which Pechstein would certainly have seen, would have given the artist time to study the movement more closely. At the same time as the exhibition, Matisse's aesthetic theories appeared in a German publication, "Notizen eines Malers" in Kunst und Künstlers, VII, 1909. Skillful at adapting and absorbing new ideas, works like Matisse's Concombres of 1907 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), would have prompted further experimentation in this direction.
Perhaps a more influential exhibition for the Brücke artists and Pechstein in particular, was the Van Gogh exhibition organized by Cassirer in 1905-1906. Starting in Hamburg and finishing in Vienna, the touring exhibition included a stop in Dresden in January 1906, where fifty of the Dutch artist's works were exhibited at Galerie Arnold. The influence of this exhibition has been noted by Magdalena M. Moeller, who commented that, "the significant fact about this exhibition is not only that it was the first major retrospective of Van Gogh's works in Germany but that above all that the members of the Brücke saw it" ("Van Gogh and Germany" in exh. cat., Vincent van Gogh and the Modern Movement, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1990, p. 312).
Many of the Van Gogh paintings exhibited at Galerie Arnold, were from his Arles, St. Rémy and Auvers periods, so powerful in form, color and brushstroke. Stilleben shares with these paintings the bright yellows and blue-green turquoise colors found in many of Van Gogh's works from the 1880s. The textured surface and bright palette of Stilleben can be compared to the tone and brushwork of works such as Van Gogh's Nature morte cafetière bleue (Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens).

Robert Graetz—Textile industrialist and art collector
Robert Graetz (1878-1945), a respected Jewish textile industrialist in Berlin, was not only deeply rooted in the business world but in the art scene of his time. Together with his brother, the art dealer Hugo Graetz, who advised him on his purchases, Robert built an important art collection, featuring young German avant-garde and Die Brücke artists, often buying from the artists themselves. Additional to works by Lovis Corinth, Otto Dix and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Emil Nolde, Käthe Kollwitz and bronzes by August Gaul, Georg Kolbe and Renée Sintenis, Graetz also owned 12 Pechsteins.
From 1933, when the Nazis came to power, Robert Graetz, faced the systematic persecution they enacted. This resulted in the scaling back of his art collection in 1935, when he moved to a smaller villa in Berlin, and its eventual loss; his company was forced into liquidation, and, finally, he was deported to a concentration camp in 1942, where he was killed.
However, Graetz was able to help his children to escape Germany. Late in 1935, his daughter Hilda Rush (Ruschkewitz, 1912-2013) emigrated to South Africa, a few days after the enactment of the so-called Nuremberg Laws on 15 September 1935, which deprived German Jews of their basic human rights. His son Helmut (1914-1989) escaped to Uruguay in 1939. His stepson Werner Haas (b. 1925) was able to leave Germany on the Kindertransport in 1939 and settled in England. Because it was not possible to provide emigrants leaving Nazi Germany with monetary assets, Robert Graetz gave artworks to his children. Hilda received Max Pechstein’s painting Stilleben mit tasse. She found refuge in Johannesburg, where she earned her living as a sales assistant, learning of her father's death from the Red Cross.

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