A pioneer of the German art scene in the early days of modernism:
Max Pechstein (1881-1955) is nowadays a classic. But in his lifetime, he was an artist who enjoyed as much popularity as he was held in disdain. Among the painters of the now world-famous "Brücke", which also numbered Nolde and Kirchner, he remained an outsider whose work the Nazis denigrated as "degenerate" and whose career was marked by highs and lows. Pechstein, born in Zwickau, loved the Baltic Sea and painted his final pictures near Kiel. The film is the first major portrait of a visionary painter who rejoiced in color, dance and nature.
The film follows Max Pechstein’s trajectory from humble origins in Zwickau to leading painter of German Expressionism. He loved spontaneity and nature and rebelled against academic rules and bourgeois norms with vibrant colors, as did his fellow painters Heckel, Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff. Their joint painting adventures with nude models were investigated by the police and the onus was on him; when he exhibited with the Berlin "Secession" in 1912, his colleagues expelled him from the "Brücke". Emil Nolde was later to denounce him to the Nazis as of "Jewish derivation".
But Pechstein held more exhibitions during his lifetime and sold more paintings than any of his fellow Expressionists. Pechstein was awarded the Saxon State Prize in 1906, which enabled him to travel to the then art metropolis of Paris, where he discovered dance and the stage as favored motifs, later adding the sea, especially the Baltic – yet also the exoticism of the South Seas, which he encountered in 1917 – as well as the human form.
His favorite model, Lotte, became his first wife. Time and again he suffered economically and had to make his way as a laborer. The 1920s were a time of success, but the Nazi accession forced him into "inner emigration." His art remained apolitical, he lived – by then with his second wife, Marta – in seclusion on the Pomeranian Baltic, only returning to Berlin after 1945. There, he taught at the School of Fine Arts — late vindication for a brilliant outsider of the German art scene.