Max Pechstein. Cabaret Singer (Chansonette). 1909

Max Pechstein

Cabaret Singer (Chansonette)


composition: 10 13/16 x 8 9/16" (27.5 x 21.8 cm); sheet (irreg.): 15 1/16 x 11 9/16" (38.2 x 29.3 cm)
the artist, Berlin
unknown (approx. 5-10), in at least two color variations
Given anonymously
Object number
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
Max Pechstein has 79 works online.
There are 19,627 prints online.

Max Pechstein, who joined the German Expressionist group Brücke (Bridge) in Dresden in 1906, was the only member with academic training as a painter (the founders were all architecture students). He was a dedicated printmaker, completing more than nine hundred prints between 1905 and 1950. Although he moved to Berlin in 1908, three years ahead of the rest of the Brücke group, he remained close, both personally and stylistically, to fellow members Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel.

Dancers is an exuberant example of the Brücke artists' aspirations for art to be a force for social and cultural renewal. Their anti-bourgeois taste for subjects taken from the fringes of society led them to base many images on the cabaret, with dance especially valued as an immediate and uninhibited form of expression. Stylistically the print is similarly radical, with Pechstein's scribbled outlines and fuzzy, speckled inking causing the overall composition to verge on the abstract. His unusual choice of an acidic yellow paper helps to suggest the lurid atmosphere of a nightclub.

In 1912 Pechstein was expelled from Brücke for exhibiting his work at the Berlin Secession without the other members' consent. Two years later, he traveled to the South Seas, inspired by Oceanic sculpture in the ethnographic museum in Berlin. He later served in the infantry in World War I.

Dancer Reflected in a Mirror was created during the postwar years, a time of confusion and instability in German society. In contrast to the exultant airborne dancer in Pechstein's earlier image, the performer here seems bored and oppressed by her role. The male observers appear similarly disengaged, staring in various directions with unfocused eyes. The mood of indifference in this print contrasts with its bold compositional structure and strong colors, qualities that typified the Expressionist idiom.

Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 58

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Peter Deitsch, New York; given anonymously to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1954

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