Audio: Hermann Max Pechstein's Abend
Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
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Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)


Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
signed 'HMPechstein' (lower left); signed and inscribed 'VIII.Abend HMPechstein' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
31½ x 39½ in. (80 x 100.5 cm.)
Painted in Leba circa 1922
Anonymous sale, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, 29-30 May 1956, lot 967.
Private collection, Cologne.
Anonymous sale, Lempertz, Cologne, 14-15 June 1966, lot 529.
Acquired by the present owner in 1979.
Regensburg, Ostdeutsche Galerie, Max Pechstein, Ostsee-Bilder, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Photographien, July - August 1981, no. 13; this exhibition later travelled to Kiel, Stiftung Pommern.
Bietigheim-Bissingen, Städtische Galerie, Max Pechstein, Werke aus dem Brücke-Museum Berlin und anderen Sammlungen, July - September 2002, no. Z28 (illustrated).

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Cornelia Svedman
Cornelia Svedman

Lot Essay

This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Max Pechstein's oils by Dr Aya Soika, commissioned by the Pechstein Estate.

The experiments that Max Pechstein had begun in 1909 during his first trip to Nidden on the Baltic coast, and then subsequently during summers spent at Moritzburg with his fellow Brücke artists, find their natural progression in Pechstein's Baltic land- and seascapes of the 1920s. These display the gradual softening of his previously harsh Expressionist palette, which is particularly evident in the cobalt and midnight blues that dominate this night-time scene, and reflect the sense of peace and harmony with nature that he rediscovered in the harbour towns, sand dunes and inlets of the Pomeranian coast, after the difficult years of the First World War and the political and social turmoil that followed it.

Although initially involved in artists' activist groups, in the wake of politically motivated violence from both the radical left- and right-wing movements in 1919, Pechstein grew increasingly disillusioned with the possibilities of progressive political and social change; he became absorbed once again in the more private aspects of expressionist painting, which celebrated personal freedom and a powerful connection to nature, and following the separation from his wife Lotte, made the decision to leave Berlin for the Baltic coast in 1920.

Had it not been for the new division of boundaries in post-war Europe, he would certainly have moved permanently to his beloved Nidden, but as Nidden was now allocated to Lithuania, Pechstein was forced to look for a new paradise to paint. In the artist's memoirs, he describes how he conducted his search, travelling by foot along the coast, with his materials in a rucksack, before discovering in the Pomeranian town of Leba, where he settled and found renewed inspiration: 'Im April 1921 machte ich mich allein, nur mit dem nötigsten Material im Rucksack, auf die Suche. Ich hatte der Karte nach in Ostpommern eine ähnliche Nehrung zwischen dem Leba-See und der Ostsee ausfindig gemacht. Zu Fuss streifte ich die Ostseeküste, nach Westen marschierend, ab. Ich entschloss mich zuletzt, in Leba mein Standquartier zu errichten Ich lernte diese Küste nicht nur schätzen, sondern auch lieben...Alles, was ich sah und um mich erlebte, wurde unerbittlich festgehalten und wie die erbeuteten Forellen, Lachse, Hechte und Aale nach Hause getragen'.

Abend probably belongs to the series of colourist landscapes which Pechstein executed in and around Leba in July to September 1922, with the central subject the reflection of the sun on water, the study of which would recur in his later works. In Abend this effect is by contrast strikingly depicted through moonlight: 'He wants to capture the [...] the interweaving of the light and the wonderful clear air, or the filtering effect that occurs through the humid atmospheric veil. It evokes an Impressionist theme, but the execution is entirely different. There is nothing analysed, nothing dissolved into a maze of details... The whole series of Leba pictures allows us to observe a new development. The colourful expression has kept its layered flatness, but it is richer, and more lively in its structure. A stream of atmospheric and luminous elements floods into the landscape and merges with the local colours' (M. Osborn, Max Pechstein, Berlin, 1922).

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