Pechstein, Max (1881–1955) By Soika, Aya
The Saxon painter Max Pechstein was hailed as one of the leading representatives of modern painting in Germany throughout the 1910s and 1920s, but played a comparatively minor role in the canonization of German Expressionism after 1945.
Pechstein first gained notoriety through his affiliation with the artist’s group Die Brücke from 1906 until 1912. He only came to the attention of a wider art public by way of his involvement in the controversial exhibition society Neue Secession in Berlin in May 1910 for which he served as president, designing its legendary first poster and catalog cover (see figure). Pechstein featured prominently in Paul Fechter’s 1914 book Der Expressionismus which presented him as the figurehead of Die Brücke in Dresden and Berlin (much to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s annoyance). Pechstein continued to paint and to exhibit throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Despite being included in the notorious 1937 Degenerate Art exhibition, and expelled from the Prussian Academy of Arts, he remained a member of the Reich Chamber of Arts throughout the Nazi dictatorship, and was the first of the so-called “degenerate artists” to receive permission to exhibit again in private galleries in 1939. The first retrospective of his work after his death (in Berlin in 1959) signaled the art historical focus on the early period of his career during the Brücke years at the expense of his later oeuvre.