Max Pechstein has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Painted in 1909 when Pechstein moved from Dresden to Berlin, Stilleben belongs to a short but significant period in the artist's career and is a rarity at auction. Brücke works of this type by other members of the group, notably Schmidt-Rottluff (fig. 1), Heckel, and Kirchner are more common. In the spring of 1909 Pechstein submitted two still lifes and a landscape to the Berlin Seccession: Yellow Tulips, Landscape, and Yellow cloth. Not only did the works sell, they were widely acclaimed by contemporary critics, who made favourable comparisons with the work of Cézanne, Matisse and 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, naturally 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, Purrmann, Moll and Grossmann. However, the Matisse exhibition organised in Berlin by Paul Cassirer in January 1909, when Pechstein would have been there, 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', Kunst und Künstlers, VII (1909). Skillful at adapting and absorbing new ideas, works like Matisse's Cucumbers of 1907, would have prompted further experimentation in this direction.
Perhaps a more significant exhibition for the Brücke artists and Pechstein in particular, was the Van Gogh exhibition organised by Cassirer in 1905/6. 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 comments 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., Van Gogh and the Modern Movement, Essen, 1990, p. 312).
Of the fifty Van Gogh paintings exhibited at Galerie Arnold, many were from his Arles, St. Rémy and Auvers periods, so powerful in form, colour and brushstroke. Stilleben shares with these paintings the bright yellows and blue/green turquoise colours 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 (fig. 2).