Max Pechstein German, 1881-1955


Max Pechstein was a major figure of German Expressionism and an active member of Die Brücke, the Blaue Reiter and later the Novembergruppe.


Upon leaving the Dresden Fine Arts Academy in 1906, Max Pechstein joined the group Die Brücke  (the bridge), recently founded in 1905 by Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Fritz Bleyl. That same year, he received the Grand Prize from the State of Saxony, equivalent to the Rome Prize, which enabled him to carry out the first of his three voyages to Italy. On his way back, he made a detour via Paris where he stayed for nine months in 1907.


That same year a great retrospective exhibition of Cézanne’s work took place at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, it became a major influence on many Modernist artists, this was only two years after André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck’s first Fauve experiments. Max Pechstein befriended artist Kees van Dongen, like him he infinitely admired Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. The two fundamental masters who opened up the road of colour for the Fauves and the Expressionists.

Pechstein also learnt Cézanne’s lesson and sometimes sought Matisse’s simplification as in his work Still Life with Mirror.


In 1908, Pechstein left for Berlin, soon joined by Erich Heckel and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. He founded the New Secession in 1910 with Georg Tappert and Emil Nolde, including most of the artists from Die Brücke and the Blaue Reiter (the blue rider).


In 1912, he participated in the second exhibition of the Blaue Reiter in Munich, as well as the first exhibition of Der Sturm (the storm).


Pechstein left Die Brücke just before its dissolution in 1913. Following Gauguin’s example he left for Oceania in 1914 in order to study Primitive Art. He was called-up in 1916, but nevertheless founded the Novembergruppe, a movement of leftist revolutionary artists, continuing his work of renovating German art while hoping to associate it this time to a political revival.


Pechstein was appointed professor at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1923, but was thene marked a representative of "Degenerate Art"when the Nazis’s came to power in 1933, like all the Expressionist painters. He no longer had the right to exhibit and was dislodged from his functions. He was able to retreive his fonctions in Berlin after the war.