Sale: 535 / Evening Sale with Collection Hermann Gerlinger, Dec. 09. 2022 in Munich Lot 4

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Lesende (Else Lasker-Schüler), 1912.
Oil on canvas
€ 700,000 / $ 756,000
€ 4,060,000 / $ 4,384,800

(incl. surcharge)
Lesende (Else Lasker-Schüler). 1912.
Oil on canvas.
Grohmann pp. 257/285. Signed and dated in upper right. Once more signed, as well as titled "Lesende" on the reverse. 102 x 76 cm (40.1 x 29.9 in).
• The formal experiment of a crystalline structure make this work a strong solitaire in the artist's creation.
• At the peak of his expressiveness, Schmidt-Rottluff captured the dazzling avant-garde poet Else Lasker-Schüler in particularly expressive colors and an impressive format.
• Schmidt-Rottluff rendered an apt cubist homage to Else Lasker-Schüler, who had her roots in the avant-garde tendencies of these times.
• Portraits by Schmidt-Rottluff of this quality are among the artist's most sought-after works.
• It was only for their very trustful relationship that Schmidt-Rottluff gave the precious piece into the hands of his longtime friend Hermann Gerlinger

The work is documented in the archive of the Karl and Emy Schmidt-Rottluff Foundation, Berlin.

PROVENANCE: Collection Hermann Gerlinger, Würzburg (with the collector's stamp Lugt 6032, acquired directly from the artist).

EXHIBITION: Maler der Brücke in Dangast von 1907 bis 1912. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel, Max Pechstein, Emma Ritter, Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg, June 2 - June 30, 1957, no. 75 (with illu. on p. 59).
Brücke 1905-1913, eine Künstlergemeinschaft des Expressionismus, Museum Folkwang, Essen, October 12 - December 14, 1958, no. 156.
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff zum 100. Geburtstag, Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landesmuseum, Schloss Gottorf, June 3 - August 12, 1984, cat. no. 14 (with illu.).
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Retrospective, Kunsthalle Bremen, June 16 - September 10, 1989; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, September 27 - December 3, 1989, cat. no. 104 (with black-and-white illu., color plate 43).
Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landesmuseum, Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig (permanent loan from the Collection Hermann Gerlinger, 1995-2001).
Frauen in Kunst und Leben der "Brücke", Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landesmuseum, Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig, September 10 - November 5, 2000, cat. no. 126 (with illu. on p. 205).
Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle an der Saale (permanent loan from the Collection Hermann Gerlinger, 2001-2017).
Der Potsdamer Platz. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner und der Untergang Preußens, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, April 27 - August 12, 2001, cat. no. 43 (with illu. on p. 103).
Das andere Ich. Porträts 1900-1950, Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, Landeskunstmuseum Sachsen-Anhalt, Halle (Saale), April 6 - June 15, 2003, cat. no. 258 (with illu.).
Die Brücke und die Moderne, 1904-1914, Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, October 17, 2004 - January 23, 2005, cat. no. 174 (with illu.).
Expressiv! Die Künstler der Brücke. Die Sammlung Hermann Gerlinger, Albertina Vienna, June 1 - August 26, 2007, cat. no. 24 (with illu.).
Buchheim Museum, Bernried (permanent loan from the Collection Hermann Gerlinger, 2017-2022).
Brückenschlag: Gerlinger – Buchheim!, Buchheim Museum, Bernried, October 28, 2017 - February 25, 2018, pp. 242-245 (with illu.).
Schmidt-Rottluff. Form, Farbe, Ausdruck!, Buchheim Museum, Bernried, September 29, 2018 - February 3, 2019, pp. 178f. (with illu.).
Else Lasker-Schüler. "Prinz Jussuf von Theben" und die Avantgarde, Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, October 6, 2019 - February 16, 2020, p. 141 (full-page illu.).

LITERATURE: Else Lasker-Schüler, Briefe nach Norwegen, in: Der Sturm. Monatsschrift für Kultur und die Künste, no. 94, January 1912, p. 752.
Will Grohmann, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Stuttgart 1956, p. 257 (with illu.), 285.
Gerhard Wietek, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff in Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein, Neumünster 1984, p. 135 (with illu.).
Hermann Gerlinger, Schmidt-Rottluff und "Der Prinz von Theben", in: Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Retrospective, published by Gunther Thiem and Armin Zweite, ex. cat. Kunsthalle Bremen/Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus Munich, Munich 1989, pp. 49-52.
Gunther Thiem, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff: 1912 - Experiment Kubismus, in: Städel-Jahrbuch, vol. 13, 1991, pp. 245-256, here pp. 246f. (with illu.).
Heinz Spielmann (ed.), Die Maler der Brücke. Sammlung Hermann Gerlinger, Stuttgart 1995, pp. 227f., SHG no. 312 (with illu.).
Magdalena M. Moeller, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Werke aus der Sammlung des Brücke-Museums Berlin, ex. cat. Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung München, Munich 1997, p. 26 (with illu.).
Hermann Gerlinger, Heinz Spielmann (eds.), Brücke-Almanach 1998, Lyonel Feininger, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel. Künstlerfreundschaften, Schleswig Holsteinisches Landesmuseum, Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig 1998, cat. no. 113 (black-and-white illu. on p. 117, color illu. on p. 225).
Magdalena M. Moeller and Tayfun Belgin (eds.), ex. cat. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Ein Maler des 20. Jahrhunderts (Gemälde, Aquarelle und Zeichnungen von 1905 bis 1972), Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund; Kunsthalle zu Kiel; Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, Munich 2001, p. 214 (with illu., no. 2).
Magdalena M. Moeller (ed.), "Unmittelbar und unverfälscht", Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik der "Brücke" aus dem Brücke-Museum Berlin, ex. cat. Stiftung Opelvillen Rüsselsheim, Munich 2003, p. 153 (with illu.).
Hermann Gerlinger, Katja Schneider (eds.), Die Maler der Brücke. Inventory catalog Collection Hermann Gerlinger, Halle (Saale) 2005, pp. 58f., SHG no. 93 (with illu.).
Katja Schneider (ed.), Moderne und Gegenwart. Das Kunstmuseum in Halle, Munich 2008, pp. 110f. (with illu.).
Hermann Gerlinger, Katja Schneider (eds.), Gemeinsames Ziel und eigene Wege. Die "Brücke" und ihr Nachwirken, Munich 2009, p. 45, illu. 25.
Magdalena M. Moeller, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Eine Monographie, Munich 2010, pp. 46f. (with illu.).
Gerhard Wietek, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff: Zeichnungen auf Postkarten, Cologne 2010, p. 230 (with black-and-white illu., here as Rosa Schapire).
Else Lasker-Schüler, Mein Herz. Ein Liebesroman mit Bildern und wirklich lebenden Menschen, Frankfurt am Main 2003 (2nd edition 2018), p. 93 (illu.).
Christiane Hoffmans, Sehnsucht nach dem reinen Ausdruck, in: Welt am Sonntag (online), September 23, 2001,
Kia Vahland, Mythologie der Bohème: In Theben leben, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung (online), November 18, 2019,
Uta Grossmann, Else Lasker-Schüler im Von der Heydt-Museum: Mittendrin in der "kreisenden Weltfabrik", in: Frankfurter Rundschau (online), December 2, 2019,

"Schmidt-Rottluff painted me sitting in the tent. [..] I am enraptured by my colorful personality, by my primal awfulness, by my dangerousness, but my golden forehead, my golden eyelids that watch over my blue poetry. My mouth is red as a berry, in my cheek the sky adorns itself to the blue dance, but my nose wafts to the east, a war flag, and my chin is a spear, a poisoned spear. Thus I sing my Song of Songs."

Else Lasker-Schüler, Briefe nach Norwegen, in Der Sturm. Monatsschrift für Kultur und die Künste, no. 94, January 1912, p. 752.

The "Lesende” (Reader) - Expression of a New Attitude to Life

In the fall of 1911, the members of the artist group "Brücke" moved from Dresden to the metropolis Berlin, where they were confronted with an abundance of new impressions, from avant-garde exhibitions over new contacts with artistic and literary circles to the generally pulsating life. For Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, co-founder of the "Brücke", this new home also offered him a great personal gain that boosted his artistic development. The painting "Lesende" from 1912 is a document of Schmidt-Rottluff's immersion in a fascinating new pictorial world. He combined inspirations from Futurism, Cubism and the "Blaue Reiter" and formed his personal interpretation, as the few oil paintings from this year testify to (fig.). Just a year later he made a next step and expanded his style through the confrontation with non-European art, which means that the works from 1912 mark a particularly special point on Schmidt-Rottluff's artistic path. The "Lesende" sits in a wooden armchair, her head slightly tilted towards the book she delves into. A calm scene, but with a vital energy inherent in this actually introverted motif of a reader! The reader’s sensation and the agility of her thoughts are visually expressed. Dynamic is created by the picture’s multi-faceted surface structure and the lines that pulse through the space like dynamic forces. The forms’ crystalline splinters convey a rhythm of their own. Volume and modeling, space and perspective, light and shadow are detached from the image of reality, so that the representation visualizes the most diverse emotional, as well as spiritual levels of perception in the experience of reality.

Cubism and Futurism Leave a Mark

Schmidt-Rottluff's works from 1912 clearly show that the artist worked up the impressions of Cubism. He had already seen first works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in Düsseldorf in 1910, and he examined the two Frenchmen comprehensively at the Sonderbund exhibition in the fall of 1912. However, the comparison with Picasso's works with a seated model (fig.) also demonstrates the fundamental differences: Picasso concentrated on the plasticity and the interplay of the volumes in space and reduced the coloring to earthy, sober tones for this purpose. Schmidt-Rottluff, on the other hand, used powerful, bright primary colors and heightened the contrasts with strong black lines. In addition, we see an extreme dynamization of the pictorial space. This energetic charge manifests the impressions of Italian Futurism, which Schmidt-Rottluff encountered at Herwarth Walden's gallery "Der Sturm" in Berlin in the spring of 1912. Walden also published their manifestos in German in his ‘Sturm’ magazine. The Futurists’ declared goal of an absolute modernity was expressed in catchwords such as "universal dynamism," "general vibration," and "simultaneity of soul states" (published in: Der Sturm. Wochenzeitschrift für Kultur und die Künste, 3rd year, no. 103, April 1912, pp. 822-824, and no. 105, April 1912, pp. 3ff.) The exhibition was the biggest art event for the German avant-garde. Their accompanying manifestos were yet another antithesis to the traditional dictates of official art in imperial Germany and were hotly debated.

Inspiration "Avant-Garde"
Naturally, the artists of the "Brücke", with whom Schmidt-Rottluff exchanged ideas and who also reacted in various ways to the new inspiration, were also passionately engaged in these discussions. Encounters with great minds like Franz Marc or Lyonel Feininger also offered Schmidt-Rottluff fertile ground for intensive discussions. In addition to his closeness to Walden's "Sturm," Schmidt-Rottluff also established contacts with expressionist literary circles, including Richard Dehmel, Gottfried Benn, Carl Sternheim, Franz Pfemfert, and Else Lasker-Schüler. The latter was married to Herwarth Walden and is also said to have given the name to both gallery and magazine - she is the person depicted in the present "Lesende."

Else Lasker-Schüler with an Iconic Effect
Schmidt-Rottluff rarely mentioned the sitter's name in the titles of his paintings of people or of obvious portraits. The fact that the "Lesende" shows the expressionist poet has been proven by correspondence between Schmidt-Rottluff and Lasker-Schüler: "Prince of Thebes," - the poet's fairy-tale alter ego - "the painter Schmidt-Rottluff wrote to me: I want to paint you" (Else Lasker-Schüler, Briefe nach Norwegen, in: Der Sturm. Wochenzeitschrift für Kultur und die Künste, vol. 3, no. 93, January 1912, pp. 743-744, here p. 744.), she reported to Walden in late 1911, as letters published in "Der Sturm" reveal. As of mid-January 1912, she expressed her enthusiasm about the portrait in letters and postcards she sent the artist. Previously, it had been assumed that the portrait showed the Hamburg art historian Rosa Schapire, who had played an important role in Schmidt-Rottluff's career from early on. Lasker-Schüler, however, referred to her portrait in a letter and enthusiastically described the symbolically perceived color tone: "My mouth is red like a berry, in my cheek the sky adorns itself to a blue dance." (Hermann Gerlinger, Schmidt-Rottluff und "Der Prinz von Theben," in: Ex. cat. Schmidt-Rottluff. Retrospektive. Bremen/Munich 1989, pp. 49-52)
A Multifaceted Portrait
The portrait of the "Lesende" thus reveals the influence of the most diverse artistic sources of inspiration, as well as the impact of encounters that Schmidt-Rottluff made in Berlin in 1912. Schmidt-Rottluff’s artist personality, which his "Brücke" colleague Erich Heckel admired so much, finds expression through "the great power and determination to create his world through monumentality, condensation and a very personal view" (Max Kaus, Mit Erich Heckel im Ersten Weltkrieg, in: Leopold Reidemeister (ed.), Erich zum Dank und Gedenken, Brücke archive no. 4, Berlin 1970, pp. 5-14, p. 13).

Janina Dahlsmann

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Lesende (Else Lasker-Schüler), 1912.
Oil on canvas
€ 700,000 / $ 756,000
€ 4,060,000 / $ 4,384,800

(incl. surcharge)