Hermann Max Pechstein - Zwei Kutter im Hafen von Leba
Hermann Max Pechstein
Zwei Kutter im Hafen von Leba
Oil on canvas 81 x 100 cm Framed under glass (museum glass). Signed and dated 'HMPechstein' (HMP joined) in black lower right and additionally signed and inscribed '1. Fischkutter HMPechstein' (HMP joined) verso on lower stretcher bar and with address 'Berlin W. 62 Kurfürstenstr. 126'. - Fine condition. Professionally restored, minimal isolated losses of colour.
In the years following World War I, the Baltic coast also remained an important haven to which Pechstein escaped. The artist fled from Berlin, city life and the everyday squabbles related to private and business matters, enjoying nature and a completely different way of living and approach to life. Pechstein felt an affinity with the fishermen on the coast and evidence from these years would suggest that when living in their community he would literally come to life again: “…am looking forward to getting away again, and being able to live freely in nature,” he wrote in spring 1922 to Walter Minnich (quoted from Aya Soika, Max Pechstein. Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, Munich, 2011, vol. 2, p. 11). Something fundamental happens both in terms of the theme, but also artistically in relation to his entire oeuvre, and the paintings of this epoch can be described as the highlights of his painterly production.
In this sense “Zwei Kutter im Hafen von Leba” from 1922, exudes an almost majestic beauty and calm. Presumably lying in the smooth waters at the banks of the channel connecting the lake and the sea, they have hung up sails and nets to dry on the masts and yards (see also comparative illus.). A rich, dark-toned colour sensuously and atmospherically underscores the damp and mossy nature of the tree-lined green bank against which the red huts and sheds stand out effectively. Here the artist is not addressing storms, breakers, waves or catching fish, but rather capturing the feeling of having found a sense of peace.
Strong brushstrokes in black in the contours and shadow formations accentuate the areas of colour. The painterly structure underlines in its fluid application the artist's easy mastery of his tools. Glowing, thickly applied white seems to be suspended in front of the darker picture background. However, the classic three-zone division of the composition is given a striking revival with the light strip of sky featuring an especially free, almost cubist-inspired cloud formation that links up effectively to the jagged silhouettes of the trees in the background. The expressive movements of the brush with their prismatic broken forms, which only indirectly reflect the sun-like light of the heavenly bodies, in combination with the area of dappled lights in the water generate an atmospheric radiation and serve to infuse the depiction with a sense of openness.
The fact that Pechstein as an Expressionist was especially fascinated by the atmosphere of the light on the sea, indeed highlighted the theme in the paintings created from 1921 onward in Leba and is frequently revealed in the titles he marked on the back of his canvases (for example, “Spiegelung” (Reflection) “Fischkutter in Nachmittagssonne” (Fishing Boats in the Afternoon Sun), “Kalter Nachmittag“ (Cold Afternoon), “Abendruhe” (Evening Calm), “Kutter im Sturm” (Fishing Boats in a Storm), “Morgensonne” (Morning Sun), “Sonne im Schilf” (Sun in the Reeds), “Sonnenflecken” (Dappled Sunlight), “Blauer Tag” (Blue Day), “Abendwolke” (Evening Clouds), and so on; see also comparative illus.). In a late reminiscence to the painting of Vincent van Gogh, one of his major influences, Pechstein relied on colours and in particular the free, artistic forming of the sky sections to articulate his visions, which always transport a deeply felt experience.
List of works
Galerie Wilhelm Grosshennig, Düsseldorf (1959), frame label verso; acquired there, in family possession since, private possession, Rhineland