oil on canvas
91 x 119 cm (35 7/8 x 46 7/8 in.)
verso signed, dated, titled and inscribed '23'
Leba, now in present-day Poland, at that time in Pomerania on the coast of the Baltic Sea, became Pechstein’s third place of longing, where he arrived at a new artistic understanding of himself. This ‘Baltic Arcadia’ was, like Nidden before it, a place that served him, like Fehmarn for Kirchner or Alsen for Nolde, as a place of refuge from the city and a source of inspiration and vitality. Pechstein travelled to Leba for the first time in March 1921 in search of a new place to work. For political reasons, he could no longer travel to Nidden in present-day Lithuania and thus spent his summers in Leba until 1945, and even lived there as of 1944. Pechstein found an idyllic landscape here, which reminded him of the South Seas with its untouched nature and primitiveness. He fled from Berlin, the big city and the everyday quarrels into nature and into alternative living conditions. According to witnesses, Pechstein literally came to life again among the fishermen of the coast, with whom he felt a kinship: “… I am looking forward to being able to depart again soon and to living uninhibited in nature”, he wrote to Walter Minnich in the spring of 1922.1 Both in terms of motifs and artistic development, something central occurs regarding the oeuvre overall, so that the paintings of this period can be considered highlights among his painting production. In 1921, Pechstein was still accompanied by his first wife Lotte and their son Frank, who spent their summer holidays here. They lived in the Gasthof Möller, where Pechstein remained behind on his own after his wife and child had returned to Berlin. Pechstein began portraying the two daughters of the innkeeper, Marta and Liese Möller, developing a particular interest in the 16-year-old Marta. The result is a large number of portraits and figure paintings. Already on 4 August, he wrote to his school friend Alexander Gerbig in a letter that he had fallen in love with Marta: “I have also … fallen for a dark little imp. There is practically steam coming out of my ears …“ He divorced Lotte, who would later marry Marta’s brother Hermann, shortly before Christmas of the same year. Pechstein married Marta, 18 years old in the meantime, in the inn of her parents in 1923. In 1922, he spent the months May to September, as well as December in Leba. The painting entitled Interior, a figure portrait of Marta in a room in the beach hotel of her parents, also originates from this period. It is an intimate representation showing a young woman entirely absorbed in thought. The colours of the interior shimmer in shades of violet, blue and green and frame Marta, who, clad in a brilliant red robe, provides the focus of the composition. The brushstroke ranges from loose to glazing, the colours transition harmoniously into one another and are accentuated by the dark contours. The work demonstrates Pechstein’s masterful handling of paint, which had become the focus of his artistic mastery in this heyday of his creativity.