Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943)
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Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943)

Zwei Köpfe über Einander

Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943)
Zwei Köpfe über Einander
oil and tempera on canvas laid down on board
13½ x 4 1/8 in. (34.2 x 10.5 cm.)
Painted in 1928
The artist's estate.
Roswitha Haftmann Modern Art, Zurich.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 28 June 1995, lot 180.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
H. Hildebrandt, Oskar Schlemmer, Munich, 1952, no. 144 (illustrated).
K. von Maur, Oskar Schlemmer, Oeuvrekatalog der Gemälde, Aquarelle, Pastelle und Plastiken, Munich, 1979, no. G 158 (illustrated p. 75).
Wuppertal, Oskar Schlemmer, 1947, no. 3.
Cologne, Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Oskar Schlemmer Sonderausstellung, 1952 - 1953, no. 13.
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Oskar Schlemmer, Gedächtnisausstellung zum 10. jährigen Todestag, 1953, no. 69.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Oskar Schlemmer, Ausstellung zum Gedächtnis an seinem 10. Todestag, 1953, no. 59.
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Oskar Schlemmer Gedächtnisausstellung, 1953 - 1954, no. 31.
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Oskar Schlemmer, 1962, no. 24.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Painters of the Bauhaus, 1962, no. 179.
Mannheim, Mannheimer Kunstverein, Oskar Schlemmer, Gemälde von 1909 bis 1942, 1967, no. 27.
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Lot Essay

'I am interested in creating human types... and I am interested in the essence of space, not in "interiors"' (Oskar Schlemmer, cited in T. Schlemmer, The Letters and Diaries of Oskar Schlemmer, Middletown, CT, 1972, p. 361).

Painted in 1928, as Schlemmer returned to painting after a break of nearly three years, Zwei Köpfe über Einander was executed shortly before the artist left his teaching post at the Bauhaus for the Fine Arts Academy in Breslau. The next three years would see Schlemmer's art dominated by a commission for a series of large murals for the interior of the Folkwang Museum in Essen, one of the most important and ambitious projects of his career. A prize for winning a competition that had been organised in 1928 by the museum's director, Ernst Gosebruch, the commission required Schlemmer to provide a series of murals that would complement a monumental fountain of kneeling youths by Georg Minne. It proved to be a complex and difficult commission: Schlemmer created three completely different versions of the series of nine murals before concluding the project. However, his installation was not to last long. In 1933 on the instructions of the National Socialists, Schlemmer's murals were removed from the museum and destroyed.

Zwei Köpfe über Einander is closely linked to the preparation for this elaborate project and is part of a series of six similarly elongated compositions catalogued in Karin von Maur's catalogue raisonné under numbers G156-G161. As such, it appears that the present work is one of the first compositions to display Schlemmer's trademark exploration of space. The dual figure composition pushes up against the boundaries of the vertical canvas and, combined with the elaborate interplay of symmetry and balance, creates a harmonious but claustrophobic atmosphere. Schlemmer would further develop this visual complexity in later composition studies which would become even more elaborate and dramatic to the point where the strength of the murals clearly overwhelmed the figures of Minne's fountain, eventually forcing Schlemmer to attempt a lighter and more spatially expansive approach to the entire project.

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