Mädchen am Strand signed and dated 1923 (lower left) oil on canvas 80.5 x 100 cm. (31 5/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
Provenance: Nationalgalerie Berlin, acquired directly from the artist in 1925. Karl Buchholz, Berlin, acquired in 1941. Harald Halvorsen, Oslo. Private collection, Oslo. Thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature: 'Tysk Maleri efter 1900', Kunsten Idag, Vol.72, no. 2, 1965, p.26, (illustrated). Annegret Janda and Jorn Grabowski, Kunst in Deutschland 1905-1937, Die verlorene Sammlung der Nationalgalerie im ehemaligen Kronpinzen-Palais, Berlin, nd, p. 180, no. 407, (illustrated)
The provenance of Mädchen am Strand has been compiled from factual information kindly communicated by Dr. Jorn Grabowski, Director of the Zentralarchiv Staaliche Museen zu Berlin, in his letter dated 8 December 2004. Subsequently this provenance has been confirmed by the son of the artist, Max K. Pechstein, in a letter dated 2 March 2005. It is also to Mr. Pechstein that we owe the identification of the sitter to his own mother, and wife of the artist, Marta Moeller.
Mädchen am Strand entered the collections of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin in April 1925 as an exchange against an earlier work by the artist. The work was seized by the German authorities in 1937 and sent to the warehouse of Köpenicker Str. In 1938, it was moved to the large national depot centre set up at the Schloss Schönhausen. In 1941, the art dealer Karl Buchholz bought the work from the authorities - together with four other paintings by the artist for 600 Norwegian crowns and instructed his Norwegian colleague Harald Halvorsen to sell them in Oslo. Since then, the painting has remained in private collections in Oslo.
By the time of Mädchen am Strand, Pechstein had become a member of the Preussische Akademie der Künste and was teaching at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin. Although his painting still contained the flamboyant colours determining his continuing adherence to the aesthetics of the German movement, his compositions had gained in simplicity and conciseness. Pechsteins prolific work in woodcut, in parallel to painting and drawing, certainly encouraged this economy of line. The present painting reveals most distinctly the artists intent in concentrating on the principal subject of the composition.
The bather is set against a quiet shoreline; behind it, sporadic vegetations furnish the sands of an undulating beach. The background is given hardly any more detail and, as such, operates as a patterned drop against which the sole figure emerges crouched and yet still too big within the horizontal borders of the canvas. But this is not any bather; this is Marta Moeller, wife of the artist, and as such the representation becomes a personal portrait painting. Here, she poses naturally, wearing nothing else but a headscarf tied back. Despite her direct stare, she sits on her clothes, arms crossed and legs tucked underneath, undisturbed by any other gaze. She reveals herself as naturally as the landscape she sits before, sinuous under the shimmering light of a midday sky. Pechstein extends the symbiosis to the range of chromatic tonalities, dissolving the body into the enveloping landscape. While the fusion is ideal and absolute, the portrait remains an intensely personal account of the artists relationship with Marta Moeller.