Max Pechstein was a German painter and printmaker. He was also a member of Die Brücke, a group of German Expressionist artists. Pechstein is best known for painting nudes and landscapes.
Education and Die Brücke
Pechstein was born in Zwickau on December 31, 1881. His father was a craftsman in a textile mill. Pechstein apprenticed as a decorator for four years between 1896 and 1900 in Zwickau. In 1900, he moved to Dresden and enrolled to study at the Kunstgewerbeschule under Otto Gussmann. He met Erich Heckel in 1906 and through him, came in contact with members of Die Brücke, the group Heckel had founded the year before. The Brücke were already developing a reputation as an important association in the rise of German Expressionism. Pechstein soon joined the group; he was the only member who had trained formally in painting as most of the group’s founders were students of architecture. He stayed close to this group for the next four years, painting in Heckel and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's studios. As a student, Pechstein’s work had been closer to the Impressionist style but soon, influenced by other members of the Brücke as well as Expressionist artists like Henri Matisse, his brushstrokes became more vigorous and colors more jarring. Along with Heckel and Kirchner, Pechstein also painted “en plein air.”
After traveling to Italy and France in 1907 and 1908, Pechstein returned to Germany and settled in Berlin. His work was shown at the Berliner Sezession in 1909, but rejected the following year. Along with other artists rejected in 1910, Pechstein founded the Neue Sezession and was made its chairman. Following his association with the Berliner Sezession, Pechstein was expelled from Die Brücke. The group disbanded the following year.
Pechstein developed an interest in “primitive” art like many other Expressionist painters and travelled to Palau in the western Pacific around 1914 where he painted a number of “exotic” subjects. Eventually his work acquired features like thick black lines and angular figures. Pechstein never broke entirely with the Expressionist style and for this reason many consider him a conservative artist. Perhaps it was this approach that also brought him greater recognition and financial success than many of his contemporaries from the Brücke. In 1916, the first monograph on Pechstein’s work was published, followed by more books. He also received commissions to decorate houses and make designs for stained glass windows. He returned to Germany at the outbreak of World War I. At the end of the war, he joined two socialist groups — Novembergruppe and Arbeitsrat für kunst.
In 1922, Pechstein became member of the Preussische Akademie der Künste in Berlin and took up a teaching position at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. The German government commissioned him to design a stained glass window for the building of the International Labor Office in Geneva in 1926. With the rise of the Nazis, Pechstein suffered because of his political position. His work was labeled “degenerate” and censored in 1933. He was also forced to resign from his teaching position and the following year, was removed from the Preussische Akademie der Künste. He spent part of World War II hiding in rural Pomerania. He was reinstated to his earlier position after the war and received many honors.
Pechstein died on June 29, 1955, in West Berlin.
Born:December 31, 1881
See his work at:
BERLIN: Brücke Museum
DETROIT: Detroit Institute of Arts
NEW YORK: Museum of Modern Art
RICHMOND: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Died:June 29, 1955
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By ARTINFO France | December 15, 2011
At German auction house Ketterer Kunst's modern and contemporary sale in Munich this past Saturday, an intriguing painting by German Expressionist Max Pechstein fetched €3.5 million...