Max Pechstein. The Lord's Prayer (Das Vater Unser). 1921

Max Pechstein

The Lord's Prayer (Das Vater Unser)


Portfolio of twelve woodcuts and one woodcut cover
composition (each approx.): 15 5/8 x 11 5/8" (39.7 x 29.6 cm); sheet (each approx.): 21 7/16 x 16 1/4" (54.5 x 41.3 cm)
Propyläen-Verlag, Berlin
Fritz Voigt, Berlin
Portfolio: 250 in two editions: A) 50 numbered 1-50 on the colophon page and housed in a leather portfolio cover, each print signed, and hand-colored under the artist's supervision; b) 200 numbered 51-250 on the colophon page and housed in a quarter linen portfolio cover, each print signed [this ex. never signed or numbered]
Transferred from the Museum Library
Object number
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
There are 13 works in this portfolio online.
Max Pechstein has 79 works online.
There are 18,710 prints online.

Promising forgiveness and deliverance from evil, the Lord's Prayer resonated powerfully in postwar Germany, which was saddled with war guilt, food shortages, and economic privations. Pechstein created this portfolio illustrating its verses during a period of intense insecurity. Only two years earlier he had agitated for revolutionary change in the newly established German republic; now, disillusioned with politics, he seems to be turning his hopes toward heavenly intervention.

Gallery label from German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, March 27–July 11, 2011

Additional text

Promising forgiveness and deliverance from evil, the Lord's Prayer resonated powerfully in postwar German society, which was saddled with war guilt and reparations, beset by hunger, and racked by civil unrest and political violence. Pechstein illustrated a single verse of the Lord's Prayer on each of this portfolio's twelve sheets, following the German translation from Martin Luther's Small Catechism, which emphasizes the power of individual prayer. Pechstein's woodcuts contrast God's grandeur and omnipotence with his humble followers' modest lives. The artist clothed the faithful in the simple garb of Baltic fishermen, familiar to him from his repeated stays in Nidden on Prussia's easternmost border. Their masklike faces and blocky, angular bodies combine the styles of medieval German woodcuts and forms sourced from the South Pacific, which Pechstein had visited before World War I, and from Africa.

Pechstein created the portfolio during a time of intense personal and social upheaval. Only two years earlier, he had been an instrumental figure in revolutionary artists' organizations that had agitated for social reform in Germany's newly established democracy. But like many others he quickly grew disillusioned, and, it seems, he began looking for change not through politics but through heavenly intervention.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Erich Cohn (1898-1972), New York; to the Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, 1936; transferred from the Museum Library in 1949

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053;; Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124;;

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information, or have spotted an error, please send feedback to