* 1865 Bromberg
† 1908 Berlin
Walter Leistikow was born at Bromberg/Bydgoszcz (formerly in the Prussian province of Posen/Poznan) on October 25, 1865. In 1883 he moved to the imperial capital Berlin, where he attended the Royal Academy of Arts for some time before he took private lessons with the landscape painters Hermann Eschke and Hans Gude. From an early point on he found most of his motifs in Berlin‘s surroundings in the pinewoods and lakes of the Mark Brandenburg, developing a suggestive and melancholic kind of landscape painting. As part of a circle of young writers, Walter Leistikow soon felt inspired to create his own literature, additionally, he was occupied with a critical examination of questions regarding contemporary art and art politics. In the following he became a committed representative of the movement of national modern art and founded, together with Max Liebermann, the artist group “Die XI“ in 1892. Their intention was to offer alternative exhibition options in opposition to the traditionally conservative academy’s jury and the ‘Verein Berliner Künstler’. Trips to Paris and Scandinavia led the artist to a period of creation characterized by Symbolism, which would also influence coloring and line management of later works. The increasing decorative stylization of his landscapes, which, owing to the large-size color fields, drew near abstraction and brought Walter Leistikow closer to applied arts and contributed to the development of his graphic oeuvre. When the jury of the “Große Berliner Kunstausstellung“ rejected Leistikow‘s painting “Grunewaldsee“ in 1898, he broke with the conservative Berlin academy painters under Anton von Werner and became a founding member of the Berlin Secession.
Works from after 1900 show a development of Walter Leistikow‘s painting characterized by an increasing distance to Art Nouveau and a turn to plein-air painting, a path he would continue until the end of his life. As a last great organizational accomplishment he founded the ‘Deutsche Künstlerbund’ in Weimar with Harry Graf Kessler and others in 1904. In 1907 he was appointed professor. In 1908 he committed suicide in order to put an end to the agonizing years of a syphilis illness. Today Walter Leistikow‘s works are on display at many domestic and international museums, among them the Bröhan Museum in Berlin or the Museum Okregowe in Bydgoszcz. On occasion of his 100th day of death in 2008 the Bröhan Museum in Berlin showed a comprehensive retrospective.