Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Pure Expression of Max Pechstein's Prints

The prints of Max Pechstein are a symphony in tactile seduction. They have a primitive linear quality indicative of the media. He enticed the medium to make spectacular portraits and figurative works which exude emotion, passion and action. He intertwines Afro-centric mask-like faces with actual primitive statues from the South Pacific and crowds up the composition, further heightening the angst taking place. These figures seemingly move comfortably with their angled features and confined spaces, packed with action and drama.
Pecstein is capably expressive with his color, when he chooses to use it, but he often does not, and we miss nothing for the choice. His black and white images sing with clarity and directness. They slap us in the face and say’ Hey, try doing better than this!” , and I would say that that may not always be possible. How does one improve upon a perfect expression?
As we look at the world’s current events, the work of the Expressionists ring truer and are more honest about how humanity is not always attractive or appealing. These works show us that there are still hard, not so noble sides to ourselves and our emotions can be powerful. Pechstein’s portraits often show hardened, weary faces vs. the mask-like veneer of others, while still others convey compassion and curiosity.
Pechstein’s work is a great model of the German Expressionist movement and his use of emotion to convey how we are all human.
Hermann Max Pechstein (1881 –1955) was a German artist, and a member of the expressionist Die Brücke art group. He is best known for creating images of portraits and landscapes.
Pechstein was born in Zwickau. He studied art at the Dresden’s School of Applied Arts and the Royal Art Academy. In 1906, he met fellow artist Erich Heckel and joined an art group called Die Brücke. Later in 1910, he helped to found an art group called Neue Sezession, which earned him attention for his work, but the Die Brucke group expelled him for breaking away from their group. He was a prolific printmaker, producing nearly nine hundred prints during his career.

After Pechstein travelled to France and Italy between 1907 and 1908, then he returned to Berlin. Pechstein developed an interest in a so-called “primitive” art like many of his Expressionist comrades. He travelled to the western Pacific island of Palau in 1914 where he created images based upon “exotic” subjects.
Pechstein never broke entirely with the Expressionist style. In 1916, the first monograph on Pechstein’s work was published. He collaborated with several publishers, including Fritz Gurlitt, who commissioned numerous portfolios and illustrated books.
He also received commissions to decorate houses and make designs for stained glass windows. At the outbreak of World War I He returned to Germany, and suffered a breakdown. At the end of the war, he joined the Novembergruppe and Arbeitsrat für kunst groups.
Pechstein was professor of art at the Berlin Academy from 1923-1933. He did commissions for the German government for the International Labor Office in Geneva, in 1926. The Nazis turned him out from teaching for being a degenerate artist, but he was reinstated in 1945. In 1933, a large portion of Pechstein’s work was confiscated by the Nazis. Several of his works were displayed in the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937.
He is buried on the Evangelischer Friedhof Alt-Schmargendorf, in Berlin.

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