GALLERIES/Daxer & Marschall
PROVENANCE:With the artist, Berlin (1934);
Held with the artist in Sweden from 1937;
Private collection, Sweden, acquired directly from the artist;
Thence by descent, Sweden.
Anna-Carola Krausse has inspected the painting and will include it in her catalogue raisonné of Lotte Laserstein’s work under the title Junge im Wald.
FURTHER INFORMATION:The Laserstein expert Anna-Carola Krausse comments on the present painting: Lotte Laserstein established her own private school of painting in Berlin in 1927. In her role as teacher she took her classes on a number of several-week painting excursions to northern Germany in the first half of the 1930s. On stylistic and thematic grounds, the genesis of the present work is unquestionably contemporary with one of these excursions, when she focused her teaching on landscapes and portraits of the local population. It was otherwise primarily her custom to concentrate on motifs from modern urban life. Since the painting is undated, the location where it was made remains unsolved.
Uwe Wolf, who sat for Laserstein's painting class in the coastal town of Sahlenburg (today a district of Cuxhaven) as a child, recounts that she occasionally painted in a stretch of forest which bordered the beach. It is therefore entirely possible that she executed the work on one of her painting excursions to Sahlenburg in 1933 or in 1934. The short, animated brushstrokes used to depict the figure and the landscape are entirely characteristic of her style of painting in the first half of the 1930s. A boy leans back, legs bent, in a leafy hollow formed by the partly-bare surface roots of a large tree growing on the edge of a bank. His upper body is supported on one elbow and he fixes the viewer with taunting nonchalance. The situation is unresolved. What is he doing there? Is he resting? Perhaps the long branch in his hands identifies him as a shepherd. Despite the somewhat staged incorporation of the figure in a picturesque, albeit open narrative setting, this virtuoso portrait of a boy displays a compelling intensity that is otherwise mainly found in Laserstein's small-format en-face portraits.
Lotte Laserstein was one of the great women artists in twentieth-century German art. She lived and worked in Berlin until 1937. As an independently minded woman of Jewish descent in a male-dominated art world, she failed to comply with conventional norms on a number of counts. It is therefore particularly remarkable that she was one of the first women to be admitted to the Berlin Academy of Art in 1921. The importance of her academic training is clearly discernible in her work. She was to show little interest in experimental avant-garde abstraction and Expressionism and more inclined to adopt the so-called 'return to order'. This was a Europe-wide development that advocated a revival of traditional artistic practices, genres and compositional approaches. Laserstein frequently depicted herself in the studio working in her white painter's smock, the classic uniform of an academically-trained artist Her work reveals a debt to the Old Masters - particularly to Renaissance painting - and to the influence of the German nineteenth-century realist Wilhelm Leibl. Laserstein's oeuvre vividly illustrates the richness and diversity of painting in the short-lived Weimar Republic. This was clearly evident in the groundbreaking exhibition titled Die Neue Sachlichkeit staged by Gustav Hartlaub, the director of the Mannheim Kunsthalle, in 1925, where he juxtaposed different varieties of realist painting. Stylistically, the concept of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) thus covers a wide spectrum. Although Laserstein's work shares some of its characteristics, her style has none of Schad's cool 'new-objectivity' nor is it socially critical like the acerbic imagery of verists Dix and Grosz. And it did not reflect the romantic idealism and unpopulated landscapes of Schrimpf and Kanoldt. Laserstein is a painter of modern life and for that reason a Neue Sachlichkeit painter. Although she preferred to adhere to traditional artistic practice and develop her own form of academic realism, the content of her painting was highly topical, with compelling images drawing on modern everyday life and contemporary reality. Her 'preoccupation with the portrayal of people' had emerged very early in her career and the teaching of Erich Wolfsfeld (1885-1956) at the Berlin Academy of Art served to strengthen it. She remained Wolfsfeld's pupil from her admission to the Academy in 1921-2 and throughout her studies, including the final two years when she advanced to become his Meisterschülerin. By then she had her own studio to work in and a good supply of models and painting materials. In 1925 she was to meet Traute Rose, who would be her close friend and favorite model. In 1927 she established her own private school of painting. However her financial situation remained precarious. Until spring 1934 her work was included in exhibitions held throughout Germany and in 1937 three of her paintings were shown at the Paris World's Fair.
Declared Jewish, she was ostracized from public life and no longer able to work. Forced to flee Germany in 1937, she settled in Sweden, where she remained for the rest of her life. She managed to scrape a living by painting portraits. But like many other exiled artists of her generation she never succeeded in regaining the international recognition she had once enjoyed in Berlin in the 1930s. As an émigré in Sweden, Laserstein's career was overlooked and her oeuvre largely forgotten until its rediscovery in the 1980s. A groundbreaking exhibition was staged at the London gallery Agnew's in 1987. It was followed by the first comprehensive retrospective, titled 'Lotte Laserstein. Meine einzige Wirklichkeit' (Lotte Laserstein. My Only Reality), held in Berlin in 2003. German museums now hold important examples of her work - the Nationalgalerie in Berlin has purchased the painting Evening over Potsdam and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt was successful in acquiring Russian Girl with Compact. In 2014, the Lenbachhaus in Munich showcased a recently rediscovered painting titled In the Restaurant (1927). In 1928 it was the first work Laserstein sold to a public institution. It was then classified as 'degenerate' and confiscated by the Nazis. In 2017, Agnew's hosted their second exhibition dedicated solely to Laserstein.
A number of solo exhibitions held recently at leading German museums have helped to acquaint an ever-wider public with the life and work of this important painter of the interwar period. In 2018 the Städel Museum mounted a major monographic show of her work titled 'Lotte Laserstein. Von Angesicht zu Angesicht' (Lotte Laserstein. Face to Face). The show was launched in Frankfurt and ran from September 2018 through March 2019 before traveling to the Berlinische Galerie (April-August 2019) and the Kunsthalle in Kiel (September 2019-January 2020). In September 2020, Laserstein's work will feature prominently in an exhibition centering around nine women artists titled 'Portraits and Figures. From Berthe Morisot to Elizabeth Peyton' at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen. A comprehensive solo exhibition is planned for 2021-2 in Sweden. Laserstein's works are today highly sought after by collectors.