Christian Rohlfs - Häuser in Soest
Häuser in Soest
Oil on canvas 59.3 x 77.2 cm Framed. Monogrammed 'CR' in red brown lower right. - In very fine condition.
In his note published in the Frankfurter Zeitung in December 1919 to congratulate the artist on his 70th birthday, the founder of the Folkwang Museum, Karl Ernst Osthaus, began with an assertion that summarised and simultaneously criticised the historical situation: “Surely no great master of German painting has lacked public recognition longer than Christian Rohlfs.” (Karl Ernst Osthaus, Reden und Schriften, ed. by Rainer Stamm, Cologne 2002, p. 166). Rohlfs was born in 1849 and in 1870, after a brief stay in Berlin, he began studying at what was seen as the progressive grand-ducal art school in Weimar. He subsequently chose to settle there, in the home of Schiller and Goethe, Herder and Nietzsche, nestled within a landscape steeped in culture. His move to Hagen in 1901 and the impulse presented there by Karl Ernst Osthaus surely exercised a great impact on his own progress - as did experiencing, from the very beginning, how one outstanding work after another was hung in the picture gallery of the Folkwang Museum. Already in his mid-50s at that time, and having previously adopted the developments of Impressionism as well as Neo-Impressionism, he is just as much to be counted among the “wild youth” as Emil Nolde, who was a full 18 years younger than him, or the artists who had just joined together to form the artists collective of the Brücke, who clearly felt they already belonged to another generation.
In 1904 Rohlfs visited the medieval Westphalian town of Soest for the first time and was delighted by its streets and squares, churches, towers and half-timber houses: “a magnificent little town”, Rohlfs told his friend Felix Bahlmann (cited in Paul Vogt, Christian Rohlfs, Aquarelle und Zeichnungen, Recklinghausen 1958, p. 34). In 1906 and 1907 Rohlfs was still painting his first portraits of its striking churches and towers with the brushstroke of van Gogh and thinking of his works at the Folkwang Museum. However, he emancipated himself over the years and developed a compact cohesiveness featuring his characteristically counterbalanced use of colour for his views of Soest's buildings and streets: Rohlfs develops a modern “all-over” out of the ochre ground of the scene, the red of the roofs standing out against the blue of the evening and the black denoting both the half-timber work and the dynamism of the town. For Rohlfs the simultaneity of stasis and motion - like that brought to Expressionist painting by the Futurists - was a proven means of conveying the visual appeal of this architectural silhouette in Soest. His style of painting reveals tendencies towards an increasing abstraction resulting from his unfettered handling of naturalism and dematerialisation of colour.
J. B. Neumann, Berlin; Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett R. N. Ketterer, auction 34 modern art, 20 and 21 Nov 1959, lot 805 ("Gasse in Soest"); Private possession, Switzerland; Private possession, Baden-Württemberg
Düsseldorf 1919 (Galerie Flechtheim ), Christian Rohlfs (zum 70. Geburtstag) - Ölbilder 1917/18, cat. no. 14