Rosa Schapire was one of the leading supporters of the Brücke group. An art historian from Hamburg she was also one of Schmidt-Rottluff's most important patrons and champions. She wrote numerous articles about him, catalogued his extensive output of prints and commissioned several projects for him, including at one time the complete furnishing of a room for her apartment (now destroyed).
Together, she and Dr Wilhelm Niemeyer comprised the two most prominent voices in the Hamburg art scene at the time. Writing for numerous art journals, they also collaborating on the short-lived periodical Die Kündung, first published in 1921, which promoted art and design by Die Brücke artists in close connection with the Kunstbund Hamburg. The artists they championed, they also sat for to be painted on occasion and the present lot, Schmidt-Rottluff’s extraordinarily powerful double-sided portrait Bildnis Rosa Schapire (recto); Landschaftstudie (verso), represents one such work of exceptional quality.
Schmidt-Rottluff painted Schapire at least three times during the early part of his career. The first of these paintings, now housed in the Brücke Museum in Berlin, dates from 1911 and depicts Schapire in a large floppy hat. The last of these works, the Porträt Dr Rosa Schapire dates from 1919 and now belongs to the Tate Gallery, London. A further portrait, entitled Woman with a Bag also from the same year as the present lot, 1915, was gifted to the Tate Gallery by Schapire and bears close resemblance. The present painting, made in 1915 also served as the basis for a woodcut portrait that Schmidt-Rottluff made of Schapire at this time. This painting however was bought by Niemeyer and as such, represents the strong connection of the two art historians and the artist.
Niemeyer was a fiercely passionate collector who as early as 1911 had already begun to amass what would prove to be one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of paintings, drawings and graphic work by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff ever assembled. He was as important a patron to Schmidt-Rottluff during this period as Schapire, but unlike her who welcomed Schmidt-Rottluff's depictions of her, Niemeyer fell out with the artist when Schmidt-Rottluff painted him in 1921. Niemeyer's rejection of this portrait of him (now in the Nationalgalerie, Berlin) abruptly ended their friendship and he transferred his interest and patronage to Franz Radziwill, whose work he continued to support and collect with an equal intensity and dedication, providing significant momentum to the young artist from his patronage.