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Abend in der Düne

Abend in der Düne
signed and dated ‘Pechstein 1911’ (lower right); inscribed ‘Abend in der Düne’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
27 ¾ x 31 5⁄8 in. (70.5 x 80.5 cm.)
Painted in Nidden in 1911
Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner, Berlin, Detroit & Los Angeles, by whom acquired directly from the artist, and thence by descent, until 1966.
Anonymous sale, Galerie Kornfeld & Klipstein, Bern, 11 June 1966, lot 813.
Leonard & Ingrid Hutton [Leonard Hutton Galleries], New York, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1986.
R. A. Heller, 'Die Brücke at Cornell' in Artforum, May 1970, pp. 41 & 43 (illustrated p. 41).
J. Elderfield, The "Wild Beasts", Fauvism and Its Affinities, New York & Toronto, 1976, p. 145 (illustrated).
P. E. Kaplan & S. Manso, eds., Major European Art Movements, 1900-1945, New York, 1977, no. 22, p. 63 (illustrated).
D. E. Gordon, Expressionism, Art and Idea, New Haven & London, 1987, no. 76, pp. 95 & 194 (illustrated p. 95 & p. 194. pl. 16).
M. M. Moeller, Die ‘Brücke’, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Aquarelle und Druckgraphik von Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel, Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde und Otto Mueller, aus der Sammlung des Brücke-Museums Berlin, Munich, 1995 (illustrated p. 23, fig. 30).
A. Lampe, 'Französische Voran. Inspirationsquelle zum Motiv der Badenden im deutschen Expressionismus', in Die Badenden, Mensch und Natur im deutschen Expressionismus, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bielefield, 2000, p. 136 (illustrated).
G. Leistner, Max Pechstein: Blauer Tag, 1911, Regensburg, 2003, pp. 33 & 40 (illustrated).
A. Soika, Max Pechstein: Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, vol. I, 1905-1918, Munich, 2011, no.1911/36, p. 327 (illustrated).
(Possibly) Berlin, Galerie Paul Cassirer, Kollektion verschiedener Künstler, December 1911 - January 1912, no. 34 (titled 'In den Dünen').
(Possibly) Frankfurt am Main, Kunstsalon Ludwig Schames, Max Pechstein: Gemälde, Zeichnungen und Skizzen, April 1914, no. 22 or 23 (titled 'In den Dünen I/II').
(Possibly) Munich, Hanz Holz Gallery, Neue Kunst - Hans Goltz, Gemälde, Graphik, Plastik, August - September 1914, no. 52 (titled 'In den Dünen').
Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Gallery, German Expressionism in Art 1905-1935: Painting, Sculpture, Prints, October - November 1951, no. 107 (titled ‘Red Nudes’).
Detroit, J. L. Hudson Gallery, The W. R. Valentiner Memorial Exhibition, November 1963 - January 1964, no. 36 (titled ‘Bathers on the Dunes’).
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, Fauves and Expressionists, April - June 1968, no. 94 (illustrated).
Providence, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Art for Your Collection, 1969.
Ithaca, New York, Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Brücke, February - March 1970, no. 34 (illustrated p. 11); this exhibition later travelled to Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery, April - May 1970.
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Art in a Turbulent Era, German and Austrian Expressionism, March - April 1978, pp. 6 & 29 (illustrated pl. 3).
Berlin, Brücke Museum, Max Pechstein: Sein malerisches Werk, September 1996 - January 1997, no. 64, pp. 100 & 315 (illustrated p. 100); this exhibition later travelled to Tübingen, Kunsthalle, January - April 1997 and Kiel, Kunsthalle, April - June 1997.
Murnau, Schloßmuseum, Maler des "Blauen Reiter", Paul Klee, Deutsche Expressionisten, Eine Privatsammlung, July - November 2006, no. 50, pp. 128 & 179 (illustrated pp. 129 & 179).

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Abend in der Düne is one of the finest of an outstanding group of paintings made by Max Pechstein in an extraordinary burst of creative energy during the idyllic summer of 1911. This was a period when the recently married Pechstein spent the summer months with his new wife Lotte, far from the modern metropolitan world of Berlin. Instead, the pair lived and worked in primitive simplicity amidst the coastal sand dunes of the small Baltic fishing village of Nidden. Recalling this blissful sojourn, the artist wrote: ‘That summer of 1911 intoxicated me from beginning to end. I had many blissful hours of work that sent shivers down my spine. Afterwards, like before, if we didn’t stay outside in the tent, we walked on bare feet over the sand of the dunes through the cool, morning-fresh grass of the forest, either to the lagoon or to the beach on the Baltic coast. From sunrise to sunset we lived outside and only returned when it was dark’ (Erinnerungen, Wiesbaden, 1960, pp. 50-52).

The paintings that Pechstein created during this memorable summer mark a defining moment in the artist’s career. His pictures from this time display a significant development from the already radical paintings of figures living in nature that he had created the previous summer, alongside fellow Brücke painters Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel on the lakes of Moritzburg. They also reveal a more successful and mature consolidation of the group’s shared ideal of using their painting to express their ideal of man living more simply and more directly in harmony with nature. When these 1911 works were subsequently exhibited in Berlin at the New Secession and then again at Paul Cassirer’s gallery in December of that year, paintings like Abend in der Düne were instrumental in establishing Pechstein firmly in the public eye as a leading exponent of the Brücke aesthetic in the city.

Abend in der Düne is one of the most ambitious and accomplished of these celebrated 1911 pictures. A depiction of four female nude figures living collectively in a warm, apparently exotic environment, the painting takes its cue from earlier bather paintings by Cezanne and the Fauves, and in particular, emulates the aspirations expressed by Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian work. In September 1910, Pechstein was deeply impressed by the Gauguin retrospective he saw in Dresden, and many of the paintings he made on his return to Nidden in the summer of 1911 directly sought to both integrate and expand upon Gauguin’s example. Indeed, as Donald E. Gordon noted in his landmark 1987 study of Expressionism, Pechstein appears to have deliberately intended Abend in der Düne not only to remind viewers of Gauguin’s vision, but to demonstrate how his own atavism had moved beyond that of the Frenchman’s into a new, more holistic and integrated rendering of their shared ideals. Towards this end, Pechstein based the pose of the central figure in this painting on Gauguin’s Tahitian Women Bathing of 1891-1892, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

‘The magnificent Polynesian native holding her hair,’ Gordon has written, was here ‘reincarnated as a German bather on an East Baltic beach. It was [however] important... [for Pechstein] that the work was done from nature and that the model was his wife... The women’s gestures seem spontaneous and unposed... It was precisely this naturalness – this appeal to sensuous colour and real “flesh and blood” – that departed so radically from Gauguin’s Symbolist precedent… Why, then, did Pechstein take the trouble to interpose a remembered Gauguin image between the “total naturalness” of his model and the comparable naturalness of his art? The answer is twofold. First, he probably brought a photograph of the Symbolist source along with him on his summer vacation; his friend Kirchner... had made the photograph from the Gauguin original the previous September. And second, he apparently wanted Abend in der Düne to assert an unequivocal allegiance to modernist French art’ (Expressionism: Art and Idea, London, 1987, pp. 93-96).

Indeed, Pechstein further accentuated and solidified this allegiance by including a second figure in the quartet of women who similarly references another iconic French modernist work – the pose of the seated figure to the left of the canvas, resting her cheek on her hand and gazing directly out at the viewer, directly echoes the nude in Edouard Manet’s iconic Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1862-1863, Musée d’Orsay, Paris). By aligning himself with Manet and Gauguin in this way, appropriating and quoting their motifs and compositions and then transforming them through his Expressionist idiom, Pechstein boldly proclaimed the revolutionary aims of his painting at this time.

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