Speyer 1880 - 1966 Basel
Oil on canvas. 44 x 51.5 cm. Framed. Signed 'H. Purrmann' in orange lower left. - Two minute losses of colour in the upper right margin.
Estate Elisabeth Heintz, Montagnola (obtained directly from the artist); Private possession, Baden-Württemberg; Hans Purrmann Haus, Speyer (permanent loan 2010 - Feb. 2019)
Speyer 2010 - Feb. 2019 (Hans Purrmann Haus), permanent exhibition Hans Purrmann and Mathilde Vollmoeller-Purrmann
Having lived in the village of Montagnola in Ticino since 1943, Hans Purrmann was regularly drawn to the south of Italy during the summer months - mostly to Ischia. However, in 1951 and 1952, he spent the summer in Sorrento on the Bay of Naples. In addition to pure landscapes, it was particularly architectural motifs - such as the Villa Gorki, which he painted several times in 1951 - that fascinated this artist who had just been awarded honorary citizenship of his hometown of Speyer and honoured with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. The building is named after the Russian writer Maxim Gorky (1868-1936), who lived there with his family in exile from 1922 to 1932, working primarily on his “Days with Lenin”.
Purrmann had already recorded the Villa Gorki in multiple paintings (see Lenz/Billeter 1922/18; 1922/19; 1924/16-18) during his journeys to Italy in the 1920s; it is assumed that he lived opposite the villa at that time. The painting offered here is thus, to some extent, to be understood as part of a painterly voyage into the past by Purrmann.
The dense pictorial structure that had been characteristic of Purrmann's work since the 1950s is also striking in the present painting. Embedded in the luxuriant vegetation of the trees and bushes, the imposing villa in terracotta tones sits regally in the centre of the picture. Purrmann's otherwise very bold colours have been moderated somewhat here in favour of nuanced gradations, and a milky-blue, somewhat hazy-looking sky contributes to this effect.
The “Villa Gorki” was owned by Elisabeth Heintz, who was Purrmann's secretary and close confidante for many years during his Ticino period and to whom he bequeathed a number of works.