Hailed in the 1920s by German critics as the "Giotto of his time," Hermann Max Pechstein was considered to be the major talent of German Expressionism. A perfect example of his exceptional abilities, Fischkutter in der Nachmittagssonne, depicts a vibrant harbor scene in the Eastern Pomerian town of Leba. In this stunning waterscape, sailboats on the banks of the Lebasee are juxtaposed against a striking blue sky. Invigorating the composition with punctuations of a bright cerulean blue, water and sky are dissected by the masts, both real and reflected, of the docked sailboats.
A quintessential German Expressionist landscape, Fischkutter in der Nachmittagssonne, is one of a series of landscape paintings executed during Pechstein's visits to Leba that immediately followed his trip to the South Seas where he began to experiment with deep saturated color. The Leba paintings are exceptional in their execution, characterized by vibrant coloration and dominated by primary colors. Fischkutter in der Nachmittagssonne is the most remarkable of all of the Leba paintings exhibiting a graphic abstract form while at the same time communicating a powerful connection to nature through a stream of atmospheric and luminous elements.
Pechstein's vitality of brushstroke and the intensity of the exaggerated color meet a brutality of form and distorted shape that create an explosion of emotion on the canvas. This new way of painting was first seen in the works of Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch, but was adapted and expanded by the German expressionist group Die Brucke (The Bridge) eventually influencing Wassily Kandinsky and Der Blau Reiter as well as American Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock.
Pechstein is considered one of the most important exponents of German Expressionism and was one of the most prominent representatives of the expressionist avant-garde in Germany. His work evolved at a time in Europe where an interest in Primitivism, nature and non-western cultures were extremely pertinent issues connected to political ideas. His participation in the seminal group Die Brucke links him to one of the earliest artists' associations which had a crucial impact on the development of classical modern art. These artists gained important inspiration from the examination of the arts of indigenous people and, along with Cubism and Fauvism, changed the face of the modern world. During his lifetime, Pechstein experienced greater success than any of the other Die Brucke artists because his work was never confined to a group ideal but always challenged the boundaries of existing artistic expressions.
At the time that Fischkutters was executed, Pechstein was one of the most prominent modern artists in Germany and his work was celebrated by a number of important solo exhibitions, including a show in the Berlin National Gallery in December of 1921. The town of Leba was extremely important to Pechstein as he discovered it as a refuge on a backpacking trip during the turbulent years following World War I.
The city was also the home of the family of Marta Moeller whose parents ran a guest house in the city center. Recently estranged from his first wife, Pechstein fell madly in love with Moeller and became inextricably tied to Leba, returning repeatedly over the next two years and finally marrying Moeller in 1923. The couple returned to the city almost every summer for the next two decades until the end of World War II and a number of important and exceptional works by Pechstein were executed there during these visits.
Pechstein was born in December 1881 in Zwickau, Germany. He studied at the School of Applied Artists and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. In 1905, he was awarded the Saxon State Prize for painting and the following year, he met Erich Heckel and joined the Die Brucke group in Dresden. The only academically trained artist in Die Brucke, he traveled to Paris in 1908, where he met the Fauve artists and exhibited with the "Societe Anonyme." In 1908, he joined the Berlin Sezession and exhibited with them that same year. In 1910 they rejected his works along with a number of other works by avant-garde artists so he resigned and helped found the radical Neuze Sezession, becoming its first president. He exhibited with them as well as with Der Blau Reiter, and published in the cutting edge publication Der Sturm between 1910 and 1912.
Pechstein traveled quite extensively throughout his career including the South Pacific, various destinations in Asia and the USA. He served as a German soldier during the First World War and was profoundly affected by this experience. During the days of the Weimar Republic, Pechstein was incredibly involved in political activities including founding the Novembergruppe and membership in the Arbeitsrat fur Kunst as well as producing political posters and illustrations for the Werbedienst of the provisional government.
In addition to his career as a graphic artist Pechstein also received a number of important interior decorating and stained glasswork commissions during his career. His incredible success, however, could not protect him from the repressive measures of the Nazi regime, and in 1933, he was forbidden to paint or exhibit and was removed from his teaching post. In 1934, he was expelled from the Preussische Akademie der Kunste, and in 1937, sixteen of his images were exhibited in the Nazi Degenerate Art Exhibition and 326 of his other works were confiscated. Along with these confiscated works, many of his remaining works were burned or destroyed because of the effects of the war. His reputation in Germany was rehabilitated at the end of the war and he was appointed a prestigious professorship along with many honors and awards in the decade preceding his death.
The loss of much of Pechstein's work during the war makes the few existing pieces by his hand incredibly rare and highly sought after. The majority of his available works are lithographs, etchings, woodcuts or watercolors, all of which are usually one of a series. To own an oil painting by Pechstein, the only one of its kind, is an incredible opportunity for any art collector and works such as these are almost never available for acquisition.
This masterpiece, Fischkutter in der Nachmittagssonne, is an exquisite work that exemplifies all of the highest ideals of the artist's oeuvre and comes with an exceptional provenance. Acquired directly from the artist by Dr. Carl Steinbart, a Berlin banker, art collector, personal friend and patron of the artist, Steinbart had one of the most significant collections of German Expressionism of his day. Notably, this work will also be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne of Max Pechstein's oils by Dr. Aya Soika, commissioned by the Pechstein Estate.