In 1918, Wolfgang Gurlitt published Die Samländische Ode (The Samland ode), an Expressionist lyric poem by Heinrich Lautensack with illustrations by Max Pechstein. In Lautensack's poem, written in 1915 while he was stationed with the German Army on the Baltic coast, the incursions of modern life—soldiers and telegraph poles—have barely touched the timeless, vast landscape of the Samland peninsula, an area of shifting dunes and desolate beaches at the eastern reach of Prussia. Pechstein, who knew this area well from his repeated stays in nearby Nidden, captured the essence of Lautensack's verse in twenty-one lithographs of bathers, frolicking horses, storm-tossed boats, and rustic Baltic architecture. Pechstein populated his raw northern landscapes with figures influenced by African tribal sculpture and Oceanic art, which were key sources in the Expressionist quest for authenticity and rejuvenation.
Pechstein executed these prints in 1917 during an enormously productive period following his release from the army, when he completed approximately 160 paintings, including many influenced by his trip in 1914 to the Palau Islands in the South Pacific. Gurlitt had funded the trip, and Pechstein consequently owed him prints and portfolios. Die Samländische Ode partly satisfied this obligation.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.