Object of the Month: May 2021

Published: 28 April 2021

Chosen by

Claire, Collections


German Expressionism

Object Name

Pechstein Letters

Place Made

Hamburg, Germany

Object Information

Two illustrated letters sent by Max Pechstein to Rosa Schapire, 1918.
Year of production : 1918
Artist: Max Pechstein
Medium : Ink, Watercolour
Materials: Ink, Paper, Watercolour

Dr Rosa Schapire (1874-1954) was an important German Art Historian and an influential supporter of the German expressionist art group Die Brücke. Based in Hamburg from 1908, she wrote supportive reviews for the Brücke artists.

In these two letters, the first dated March 5 1918 and the second, 16 October 1918 she receives news from the Brücke artist Max Pechstein. The first letter describes a visit to a dealer who told Pechstein that a number of his sold prints had been sent to Frankfurt, Breslau and Dresden.

In the second letter, he informs Dr Schapire of his new address, but then says ‘unfortunately I was plagued by ‘flu for more than 14 days…Yet I hope to publish my new graphical work within the year’.
The words in the second letter gain in significance when linked to the 1918-1920 worldwide pandemic of influenza which caused the deaths of between 50-100 million people, making it one of the world’s deadliest epidemics. Pechstein therefore was fortunate to survive. It is particularly poignant now whilst the world confronts another pandemic.

These letter were recently gifted to the museum by Paula Hajnal-Konyi whose grandmother, Éva Hajnal-Kónyi, was a friend of Rosa Schapire and was given the letters by her. Shapire lived in London from 1939 and did not have room to hang many of her artworks so she loaned them to her friends including Éva. Among the works was one that later went on to be gifted to the Tate collection:

As children, Paula’s father and his sisters used to call this painting ‘Channel crossing’ because the women looked so ill.