Landschaft mit Palme
Oil on canvas 50.5 x 61 cm Framed. Signed 'H. Purrmann' in black lower right. - Some minor craqueleur.
Cassis, Collioure, Ajaccio: sun-drenched little towns in the landscapes of the south. Luminous, sometimes emphatically glaring colours reflect the distinctive light of these regions. Hans Purrmann spent the majority of his life in the south. He was fascinated by the austere vegetation and the Mediterranean architecture submerged within landscape vistas. His decision to switch to Paris after his initial studies in Munich with the conservative Franz von Stuck, his encounter with Henri Matisse there and his experience - with André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and others, such as Albert Marquet - of the young avant-garde's revolt against the Impressionists and Pointillists shaped more than just the early phase of his painting. Under the impression of Vincent van Gogh's painting and the Pointillists who succeeded him, artists grouped around Matisse liberated themselves from the Post-Impressionist taste still dominant in Paris. These painters, whom critics labelled “Fauves” (that is, “wild beasts”), developed a new and briefly influential style.
A lifelong friendship bound Purrmann and the older Matisse: they painted and travelled together, and the artist from Speyer did not just take the credo of the Frenchman to heart - in his painting he distilled the essence of the “simplification of idea and form” propagated by Matisse at his Parisian academy.
“Landschaft mit Palme” is a splendid example of this realisation. In 1909 Purrmann created pictures featuring southern landscapes in Cassis, on the Provençal coast, and the next year in the village of Collioure, south of Perpignan on the Golf of Lyon; in early 1912 he pursued this work further in Ajaccio. The artist's marriage to Mathilde Vollmoeller provided the occasion for the journey to the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. There he created a great number of landscapes with the distinctive architecture of an oil mill and views like the one here, featuring tall palm trees, cypresses and pines standing in glaring sunlight and set between buildings cut off by the edges of the canvas; they are painted with impulsively applied brushstrokes and the colours are juxtaposed boldly and directly, without transitions between them.
Mathilde Vollmoeller recounts her impressions of the encounter with this barren landscape in a letter to Rainer Maria Rilke from 4 February 1912: “Large rubber trees, blooming mimosas, geraniums and roses and a deserted and abandoned town with almost no guests and overgrown gardens surrounding locked houses. We want to look for a place to stay for months and modestly ask to be admitted to and become more closely acquainted with these glorious trees, cliffs, sea and walls. Until the heat perhaps drives us away, who knows, perhaps you're familiar with Corsica? For us it is an improvement after the south of France and, from every side, it invites us to work.” (Cited in Christian Lenz, Felix Billeter, Hans Purrmann: Die Gemälde, Munich 2004, vol. 1, p. 75).
With a confirmation from Robert Purrmann, Starnberg, dated 4 Feb. 1970
We would like to thank Felix Billeter, Hans Purrmann Archiv, Munich, for kind information.
Lothar Schmidt, Munich (1970); Karl & Faber, Munich, auction 180, 28 Nov. 1990, lot 1189; Private collection, Rhineland-Palatinate
Annette Gautherie-Kampka, Café du Dôme. Deutsche Maler in Paris 1903-1914, Bremen 1996, p. 87 with illus.