Influenced by ethnographic exhibitions in Dresden and Berlin, photographs from the colonies, and presumably also by the paintings of Paul Gauguin, Max Pechstein in 1909 created two large lithographs of 'exotic' nudes, the present Mann und Weib ('Man and Woman') and Slavinnen ('Female Slaves') (Krüger L 85). They are amongst the earliest manifestations in his printed oeuvre of a fascination with far-away places and ancient or indigenous cultures, an interest that would lead him years later, in 1914, to travel to the Palau Islands in the Western Pacific.
Mann und Weib depicts the head and chest of a woman, seen nearly frontally, her head with heavy, dark hair, in a quarter-profile to the left. Behind her to the right is a male figure, seemingly also naked and considerably larger than the woman. Despite the proximity and nudity of the figures, this is not an explicitly erotic scene. Instead, the male figure seems too loom over her in a slightly menacing way.
The present impression appears to be an unrecorded first state. In the few other known impressions, which are presumably slightly later, her breasts, the contours of his chest and dark bands of hair down the sides of his head are added to the stone. Here, the hand-colouring in vivid watercolours fills some of these blank areas: her nipples are painted in with pink watercolour, his body is uniformly brown and instead of the black hair, he seems to wear a brightly coloured headdress, reminiscent of an ancient Egyptian crown.
Impressions of this lithograph are extremely rare. Krüger mentions two impressions: one from the Stinnes Collection printed in black and olive green (Gutekunst & Klipstein, Bern, 1938); and another, also in printed in colours, with Hanna Bekker vom Rath, Frankfurt am Main, in 1973 (catalogue 16, 1974, no. 83, ill.). Since then, two other impressions have surfaced: one from the collection of Gustav Schiefler, printed in colours, signed, dated and numbered 1 (Ketterer, Munich, 19 April 2013, lot 478); and another, also printed in colours, signed, dated, numbered 4, titled and inscribed with the price 40- and the artist's Berlin address. A fifth one, printed in black only, signed, dated, titled and numbered 3 is at the Coninx Stiftung, Zurich.
The present impression is not identical with any of these five. It is inscribed 1. Eigendruck/ 3 Drucke, indicating that it is the first of only three impressions. The inscription seems to correspond at least partly with our understanding that this is a first proof impression of the first, unfinished state. Fechter knew of one handcoloured impression, which may be identical with the present one. It would also be intriguing know whether it is identical with the impression exhibited at the Berliner Secession exhibition in 1909 (no. 553) or at the Deutsche Graphische Ausstellung at the Deutsche Buchgewerbeausstellung in Leipzig in 1910 (no. 482)