German Expressionism

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Max Pechstein

German, 1881–1955

Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011

Painter, printmaker. After studying in Dresden, joined Brücke group in 1906 at invitation of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Moved to Berlin in 1908, but continued to spend time with fellow Brücke artists in Dresden and at rural retreats. Expelled from Brücke in 1912 for breaking policy of only exhibiting as a group when he submitted paintings to the Berlin Secession. Regarded as the paradigmatic Expressionist in 1910s and 1920s to the ire of other Brücke members. Interested in "primitive" cultures and traveled to Palau Islands in South Pacific in 1914; interned by Japanese with outbreak of World War I. Returned to Germany and was drafted into army in 1915. Saw action at Somme; had nervous breakdown. In 1918 was instrumental in founding the Novembergruppe, a left-wing artists' group demanding artist involvement in new social policies. In posters supporting fledgling republic, united Expressionist aesthetics with socialist propaganda.

Over career, made more than nine hundred prints, mostly lithographs and woodcuts between 1906 and 1923. During Brücke years, most were self-printed in tiny editions. Beginning early 1910s, collaborated with several leading Berlin-based publishers, including Fritz Gurlitt, who commissioned some seventeen portfolios and illustrated books.

After 1933 expelled from the Prussian Academy of Arts, was forbidden from painting, and lost teaching post in Berlin. Nazis removed 326 works from public collections.

Selected Bibliography

Krüger, Günter. Das druckgraphische Werk Max Pechsteins. Tökendorf, West Germany: R. C. Pechstein-Verlag, 1988.

Moeller, Magdalena M., ed. Max Pechstein im Brücke-Museum Berlin. Exh. cat. Berlin: Brücke-Museum, 2001.

Moeller, Magdalena M., ed. Max Pechstein: Sein malerisches Werk. Exh. cat. Berlin: Brücke-Museum, 1996.

Heather Hess

Published by Max Pechstein

  • Max Pechstein. Sailboats near the Coast (Segelboote vor der Küste). 1923
    Max Pechstein
    Sailboats near the Coast (Segelboote vor der...
    Max Pechstein. Sailboats near the Coast (Segelboote vor der Küste). 1923
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