Sale: 530 / Evening Sale / The Hermann Gerlinger Collection, June 10. 2022 in Munich Lot 57

Hermann Max Pechstein
Fischerkutter, 1923.
Oil on canvas
€ 250,000 / $ 262,500
€ 475,000 / $ 498,750

(incl. surcharge)
Fischerkutter. 1923.
Oil on canvas.
Soika 1923/16. Lower right signed and dated, signed and titled on the reverse. 70.5 x 96 cm (27.7 x 37.7 in). [CH].

• Balanced composition of an expressive Baltic coast scene in strong colors and of museum quality.
• Part of the same German private collection for more than 40 years.
• The eventful German history is reflected by the painting's provenance.
• Similar Leba scenes are at, among others, the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture, Berlin (on loan at Städtische Gemäldesammlung, Königsberg 1932-1937).
Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Berlin (inventory no. 10700, confiscated in 1937).
Depot of "internationally exploitable" artworks, Schönhausen Palace, Berlin (as of 1939).Galerie Karl Buchholz, Berlin (on consignment, 1939-1941, acquired from the above in 1941).
Collection Hans H. Ranft, Oslo/Campione d'Italia (acquired from the above in 1941, until 1968).
Collection Arnold A. Saltzmann, New York (1968-1980).
Galerie Thomas, Munich (with the gallery's label on the reverse). Private collection Rhineland (acquired from the above in 1980).
Evers since family-owned.
This work is free from restitution claims.

First General German Art Exhibition, State Historical Museum, Moscow, as of October 18, 1924, Saratow, December 1924 until March 1925, Leningrad, May to July 1925, cat. no. 316 (tited "Am Meeresufer", with black-and-white illu.).
Die ersten 15 Jahre. Anniversary exhibition, Galerie Thomas, Munich, February 7 - March 27, 1980, cat. no. 170 (with color illu.).

LITERATURE: (Degenerate Art no.: 10700).
Alfred Rohde, Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Königsberg Pr. Führer durch die Schausammlungen, 2nd part, catalog of paintings, Königsberg 1934, cat. no. 231 (with illu. in black-and-white, platel 37).
Anja Tiedemann, Die "entartete" Moderne und ihr amerikanischer Markt. Karl Buchholz und Curt Valentin als Händler verfemter Kunst, writings of the Research Center "Degenerate Art", volume IV, Berlin 2013, pp. 325, 398.
Andreas Hüneke, Einzug der modernen Kunst in Königsberg und die Beschlagnahme 1937, in: "Degenerate Art" in Wroclaw, Szczecin and Kalinigrad, Paderborn 2021, pp. 128-142, here pp. 138, 141.

"I immersed into painting and realized that it is her, only her, that, when fervently loved, can give me everything I need. If only I wasn't forced to trade the works for money to make a living."
Hermann Max Pechstein in a letter to Irma Stern, May 17, 1924, quoted after: Aya Soika, Max Pechstein (catalog raisonné), vol. II, p. 14.

Mediterranean, Pacific, North and Baltic Sea. Pechstein's close connection with the sea

Although E. L. Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and other "Brücke" artists found inspiration from stays on the North Sea and especially on the Baltic Sea, Hermann Max Pechstein's entire artistic work is particularly closely related to the sea and maritime life. Most of his life, he spent the summer months on the sea. Among others, Pechstein visited Dangast on the North Sea (1910), the medieval fishing village of Monterosso al Mare on the Ligurian coast in Italy (1913/1924), the Pacific archipelago of Palau in the South Pacific (1914), and in later years the Baltic Sea island of Usedom ( 1949), the Bay of Kiel (1952) and the North Sea island of Amrum, the fishing village of Nidden on the Curonian Spit and the Baltic Sea resort of Rowy. In 1909 Pechstein traveled to the Baltic Sea for the first time and got to know the simple life of the local fishermen. From then on he made the still very pristine coastal landscape the main motif of his work. The painter found a nature ot yet overrun by tourists and bathers, the impressive tides, the rhythm and noise of the sea, the often stormy, rough winds, the infinite horizon and the gently arched dunes, to be a source of strength. The artist recorded his deeply felt impressions in 1920 in the cycle of paintings "Fischerleben", most of which are considered lost today.
In the same year, however, the stays in Nidden ended for the time being after the small town in East Prussia became a part of Lithuania under the administration of the newly founded League of Nations after the Versailles Treaty. However, the artist could not do without the lengthy stays on his beloved Baltic Sea, so the following year he chose the small coastal town of Leba in what was then Pomerania as his new summer home, even his second home, to which he would return regularly until 1945. In his 'Memoirs' the artist wrote about Leba retrospectively: "In April 1921 I went on my own search, only with the most necessary material in my rucksack. According to the map in East Pomerania I found a similar spit between Lake Leba and the Baltic Sea. [.] not only did I learn to appreciate this coast, but also came to love it. [.] Everything I saw and experienced around me was relentlessly recorded and taken home with me like the trout, salmon, pike and eels that I had caught. This gave me a security that would not let me drown in the collapse after the war." (Max Pechstein, Erinnerungen, Stuttgart 1993, pp. 107f.).

Pechstein's paradise on the Leba river
The village of Leba is located on a narrow, almost island-like spit between Lake Leba and Lake Sarbsko and the open sea and has been a popular but not too crowded small bathing resort since Pechstein's time, surrounded by a still quite primal dune landscape with a huge wandering dune. Here the artist found the retreat he so longed for, his personal paradise far from the noisy, hectic and anonymous city of Berlin: "But the fact that the city depresses me and occasionally paralyzes me, I'm willing to admit, I need air, sky, a wide view around me." (Pechstein in a letter to Walter Minnich, probably March 1922, quoted from: ex. cat. Hamburg 2017, p. 149).
The painting offered here was created during another stay in Leba in 1923. In the spring the artist traveled to Leba for a few weeks, then apparently only stayed in Berlin for a short time, returning to the beloved Baltic Sea at the end of July, staying for several months. In September, after separating from his first wife Lotte, he married his second wife, Marta Möller, whom he had met two years earlier during an earlier stay.

Cutter, heaven and lagoon

During his stays on the Baltic Sea, Pechstein not only captured bathing scenes, the hard life of the local fishermen, coastal landscapes, beach impressions, atmospheric weather phenomena, cloud formations, changing lighting moods, sunsets and impressive sea scenes, but also atmospheric compositions of docking ships and moving depictions of fishing boats, sailing ships, barges and rowing boats on the high seas. With impressive expertise, the artist devoted himself to a strikingly large number of ship depictions during these stays. Despite the artistic reduction and simplification, the works, from fishing boats to ocean liners, reveal the characteristics of each type of ship. Pechstein's maritime knowledge, collected on his travels, flows into these depictions. The artist had already owned a canoe in Palau in the South Seas, and he soon bought his own sailing boat in Germany as well. The dominating motif in our painting are the so-called 'kuren‘ or ‘keitel‘ barges, which are typical of this region on the Baltic Sea, with their towering, colorful sails already set for the next trip in the early morning hours. Lined up in a row, together with the clear diagonal of the waterfront promenade, they lead the eye into the depths of the picture. Pechstein follows a clear composition, with which he divides the picture into sky, shore and lagoon. The clear edges and forms of the sails and the row of houses are broken up by the asymmetrical forms of the artistically staged tree and the dynamic brushwork. The fading brightness on the horizon indicates that a busy day is about to end, and Pechstein cleverly uses the smooth surface of the water to reflect the sky and the sails of the waiting cutters.

The creative phase after the artistic rebirth
The early 1920s marked a rather unusual and very fruitful creative phase, in which Pechstein captured the surroundings of his adopted home on the canvas with an expressive, warm-toned color palette, thus creating a certain chromatic similarity to the much-acclaimed South Seas pictures of 1914. In our work, Pechstein contrasts the strong, earthy colors - the bright sunset, in which he lets the houses shine, the deep dark violet and the warm brown tones - with a color palette of different, equally strong green and blue tones and works in the middle of the picture - according to his preference for the basic colors - also some sunny-yellow color accents. The result is an extremely balanced, harmonious picture, both in terms of composition and color, which can certainly be regarded as a particularly successful example of these creative years after the First World War. With his painting style, which is both two-dimensional and yet rich in detail, and the strong colors used here, Pechstein expresses his intense experience of nature and his inner feelings and thus achieves his very own, very personal expressionist pictorial language.

At the beginning of the 1920s, Pechstein captured the tree-lined mill ditch and the bridges leading over it in other works, and from the angle shown here, Pechstein even painted the harbor view covered with snow in the winter of the previous year - here, however, it shines in an impressive, harmonious, unique blaze of color.
Like the painting offered here, the works from the hard post-war years in Pechstein's oeuvre document a kind of artistic rebirth and deliver proof of how he had overcome the traumatic war experiences. Especially in the landscape depictions made during his stays on the Baltic Sea in the 1920s, the artist achieves such a harmonious, strong unity of form, content and coloring, with which he masterfully expresses his deep connection to nature and to the simple life on the sea without dramatic exaggeration (cf. ex. cat. Max Pechstein im Brücke-Museum, Munich 2001, p. 19).

A picture with an eventful history

Shortly after its creation, our painting "Fischerkutter" 1924/1925 was included in the first general German art exhibition alongside works by Albert Birkle, Otto Dix, Conrad Felixmüller, George Grosz, Hannah Höch, Heinrich Hoerle, Käthe Kollwitz, Rudolf Schlichter and others. presented to the international public in the State Historical Museum in Moscow, later in Saratov and in Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad).
Due to the seizure of power by Hitler and the National Socialists, the 1930s not only changed Pechstein's life situation, but also the future biography of the "Fischerkutter". Pechstein was occasionally involved in individual exhibitions during these years, but in the course of the defamation by the National Socialist regime, he sold very few works and generally kept his head above water with the financial support of American friends. In 1934, the artist wrote to a friend: "Many of my colleagues have emigrated to America and they urge me to do the same, but I cannot part with the landscape of Pomerania and its simple inhabitants, the stay and work on the waters and in the woods up there are a fountain of youth for me [..]." (Pechstein to his friend Dr. Walter Minnich, 1934, quoted from: ex. cat. Max Pechstein im Brücke-Museum, Munich 2001, p. 19) The artist turned his back on Berlin as often as possible in these and the subsequent years, as he was more drawn to his secluded paradise of Leba on the Baltic Sea, where our "Fischerkutter" was also made in 1923. In 1937, he was forced to leave the Academy of Arts and the National Socialists confiscated around 330 of his works from German museums, among them the painting offered here, which until then had been part of the art collection of the Reich Ministry for Science, Art and Public Education in Berlin and had been exhibited as a loan in the Municipal Painting Collection in Königsberg since 1932. Six other confiscated paintings were shown in the propaganda exhibition "Degenerate Art" in Munich. The "Fischerkutter" was in the depot of the Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Berlin (under the direction of Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels) until 1939, before the painting was stored in the depot of "internationally usable" works of art in Berlin's Schönhausen Palace. The further journey of the painting is documented in the files of the Buchholz Gallery, which are still preserved in the Federal Archives in Berlin. As part of the 'exploitation' of the confiscated, so-called 'degenerate' works of art commissioned by the National Socialists, the art dealer Karl Buchholz, who was commissioned by the National Socialists, sold it in 1941 together with other works by Max Pechstein and some works by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Karl Hofer to the Swiss watch dealer Hans H. Ranft, who was living in Norway at the time, and who ended up in Italy with his art collection after the war. In the late 1960s, the painting became part of the collection of the American diplomat, businessman and art collector Arnold A. Saltzmann in New York, before the "Fischerkutter" finally returned to its homeland Germany and found its way into a Rhenish private collection in the 1980s. While the warm-toned, idyllic depiction of the cutter peacefully lying on the water in the evening hours, illustrates Pechstein's personal Eldorado on his beloved Baltic Sea, the initially invisible, eventful history of the painting describes the cultural-political situation in Germany, and the fate of the works by an artist defamed as "degenerate" in the time of World War II. [CH]

Hermann Max Pechstein
Fischerkutter, 1923.
Oil on canvas
€ 250,000 / $ 262,500
€ 475,000 / $ 498,750

(incl. surcharge)