Meschede 1887 - 1914 Perthes-les-Hurlus
Kaffeetafel im Garten
Oil on canvas. 69.4 x 53 cm. Framed. Unsigned. - In fine original condition. Small nail perforations in the corners respectively due to former mounting. - Minor smaller old losses of colour in two places in the pastose area of the left half of the picture professionally consolidated.
Heiderich 403; Vriesen 325
With a photo-certificate by Wolfgang Macke, Bonn, dated 20 Oct. 1969, with the estate stamp
We would like to thank Ursula Heiderich, Syke, for kind information.
August Macke Estate; Private possession (1957); Galerie Änne Abels, Cologne, acquired there in 1969; Private possession, Rhineland, since
The painting is requested as loan for the exhibition "August Macke und Freunde - Begegnung in Bildwelten" (1 October 2017 - 14 February 2018) in celebration of the re-opening of the August Macke Haus, Bonn.
Gustav Vriesen, August Macke, Stuttgart 1953, cat. no. 325 ("Kaffeetafel im Garten, Bonn, Nachlaß"); Gustav Vriesen, August Macke, Stuttgart 1957, cat. no. 325 with illus.; Lothar Schmitt/ Iris Stollmayer (ed. Verein Augsut Macke Haus e.V.), August Macke: Blickfänge in und um sein Bonner Haus (Schriftenreihe Verein August Macke Haus Bonn, Nr. 38), Bonn 2001, cat. rais. no. 71 with illus. p. 165 (not exhibited, "Aufbewahrungsort unbekannt" [location unknown])
August Macke's important painting “Kaffeetafel im Garten“ can be understood as narrative family portrait as well as significant evidence for the artist`s exceptional talent to allude to the world beyond its visible appearance by referring to its everyday phenomena.
The garden played a central role in the Macke family, as is demonstrated not only by preserved photographs (see comparative ill. 1) but also by a whole series of drawings, watercolours and paintings by August Macke. He repeatedly recorded family gatherings during or at teatime in the form of paintings, for example, in “Im Garten: Elisabeth und Walterchen mit Wolf” - which features a closely related motif and is now part of the collection of Aachen's Ludwig Forum - or in the painting “Kinder im Garten”, from the Kunstmuseum Bonn (see comparative illus. 2 and 3). Much like other motifs from his immediate surroundings, the artist chose the garden as much as a location as a setting.
August Macke returned from the Tegernsee with his wife and their son Walter in November of 1910, and they moved into their house in Bonn's Bornheimerstraße in February of the following year. A total of twelve works from the year 1912, which the artist spent large parts of in the Rhineland, can be linked with the garden of their home: these include this family idyll in the garden during afternoon teatime (see Margarethe Jochimsen, Eingefangene Blicke, in: August Macke: Blickfänge in und um sein Bonner Haus, op. cit, p. 13). According to Wolfgang Macke among the depicted figures it is possible to identify August Macke's son Walter at the left, holding the hand of his great-grandmother Katharina Koehler, as well as Macke's wife Elisabeth and her mother Sophie Gehrhardt at the table behind them. Their German shepherd, Wolf, is lying on the grass to the right of the table.
In terms of the composition Macke has arranged the group of three at the table in the centre of the painting, between trees in a bold green and a flower bed glowing in tones of red and yellow. His son Walter is positioned somewhat further in front, together with Katharina Koehler, and has been caught in mid-motion; his gaze and right arm seem to indicate the direction. Little Walter has thus been assigned the most active role in this tranquil garden scene. This detail may very well be worthy of note, considering that August Macke's formal vocabulary has repeatedly been symbolically interpreted in the context of his depictions of dreams and of paradise, for example, by Janice McCullagh, who has pointed to children as a symbol of continuity and the hope for a new world. Living in the eternal present they are said to find themselves in that self-assured state in which knowledge has not yet been divided into the subjective and objective, thus living in a pristine unity with nature (see Janice McCullagh, Mackes Paradiesvision, in: exhib. cat., August Macke, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte Münster/Städtisches Kunstmuseum Bonn/Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus München 1986/1987, p. 97).
Macke's friend Franz Marc and his wife Maria visited Bonn in September and October of 1912, at approximately the same time as this painting was created. During this encounter they created the wall painting “Paradies” (see comparative illus. 4) together in Macke's studio. Filled with the dream of a harmonious, ideal state of the world, Macke's treatment of the theme of paradise is certainly rich in variety. Formally the wall painting in his studio may directly allude to the traditional pictorial subject of the Garden of Eden; however, in Macke's work the yearning for a new world does not necessarily reveal itself in the traditional modes of representing paradise. Much more often it takes on the appearance of cultivated nature, such as gardens and parks, urban landscapes or the zoological garden. Macke painted what he saw and, in this way, he was able to gently lead his viewers behind the veil of outward appearances without simultaneously taking away their sense for the immediacy, the forms, colours and structures of the world. Thus images of the material and immaterial merge into one another, metaphor and abstraction are combined. Entirely in the spirit of Schopenhauer, whose texts the artist knew, Macke composed scenes from everyday life and invested them with the spirit of the utopian: “Neither any individual nor any action can be without significance: in all of them and through them all the Idea of humanity more and more unfolds itself. […] For to hold firm, in an enduring image, the fleeting world undergoing ceaseless transformation in its individual events, which yet represent the whole, is an accomplishment of the art of painting, through which it seems to bring time itself to a standstill, elevating the individual to the Idea of its species.” (Arthur Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Arthur Schopenhauers sämtliche Werke in sechs Bänden, Leipzig 1891, vol. 1, pp. 306 ff).
As a very personal idyll, “Kaffeetafel im Garten” is able to use the tangible forms of everyday family life as a means to guide viewers directly into the ideas of that new era of the spirit, whose dawning was sensed by August Macke, just as it was by his contemporaries Wassily Kandinsky or Franz Marc. The overcoming of materialism and the transition into a new era of the spirit was a central tendency in the work of the artists of the Blauer Reiter, whose historic almanac was published in May of 1912. It contains Macke's short essay “Die Masken” (The masks), in which he writes: “Intangible ideas express themselves in tangible forms. Tangible through our senses as a star, thunder, flower, as form. Form is a secret to us, because it is the expression of secret forces. Only through it do we sense the secret forces, the 'invisible God'. The senses are our bridge from the intangible to the tangible. Looking at plants and animals is: feeling their secret. Listening to thunder is: feeling its secret. Understanding the language of forms means: being closer to the secret, living. Creation of forms means: living. Are children not creators who create directly from the secret of their sensibility, more so than the imitator of Greek form? Are the Wild Artists, who have their own form, not strong like the form of thunder? Thunder expresses itself, the flower, every force expresses itself as form. As does man. Something also drives him to find words for concepts, the clear out of the unclear, the conscious out of the unconscious. That is his life, his creation.” (August Macke, Die Masken, in: Der Blaue Reiter, Munich 1912. Cited in: Klaus Lankheit (ed.), Der Blaue Reiter, Munich/Zurich 1990, p. 56).