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Sale: 449 / Modern Art I, June 10. 2017 in Munich Lot 226

Lot description
Ronmay. 1917.
Oil on canvas.
Soika 1917/92. Lower left monogrammed and dated. Verso titled and inscribed"(Palau". 75.5 x 59.5 cm (29.7 x 23.4 in).

This very rare South Sea picture, quite sought after on the international auction market, is the only known paiting that shows Romnay, the daughter of a chief, whom Pechstein met on Palau in 1914. Even years later the artist felt inspired to write the erotic account "Ronmay mit der Hibiskusblüte". His memories of their painting session were pubished in 1927..

PROVENANCE: Wolfgang Gurlitt, Berlin (before 1921-1929?; according to the statement signed by Wolfgang Gurlitt in context of the dispute with Pechstein on 16 March 1923, the painting was on the list of 14 works which Gurlitt was entitled to keep as his "unverkäufliches Privat-Eigentum" (unsalable private property) corresponding the agreement from 7 March 1923).
Joseph von Sternberg, Hollywood (acquired in an art shop in Berlin in ca. 1929 (according to the auction catalog of Parke-Bernet Galleries from 1949 Sternberg acquired the painting at Galerie Thannhauser in Berlin, however, it is more likely that he bought it from Wolfgang Gurlitt, cf. Soika vol. I, p. 125) - sold through Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York in 1949).
German art trade (around 1960).
Private collection Hirschberg/Großsachsen, Baden-Württemberg (ca. 1960 - ca. 1971).
Private collection Berlin (inherited from aforementioned - since in family possession).

EXHIBITION: Max Pechstein, part II: Bilder aus Palau, Kunstsalon Fritz Gurlitt, 16 July - 1st September 1918, no. 53.
Catalog of an exhibition in context of 'Potsdamer Kunstsommer' in 1921, Potsdam Kunstverein e.V., with the support of the City of Potsdam, orangery of Park Sanssouci, June - September 1921, no. 111 (verso with the label).
Private Collection Josef von Sternberg, Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, Los Angeles 16 June - 31st July 1935, no. cat (cf. Soika vol. II, p. 86).
The Collection of Josef von Sternberg, Los Angeles County Museum, May - 5 September 1943.
Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings from the Josef von Sternberg Collection, Loan by Mr. Josef von Sternberg, Hollywood California, The Arts Club of Chicago, 1st - 27 November 1946, no. 18.
Barbara Lülf, Die Suche nach dem Ursprüglichen, in: Max Pechstein. Sein malerisches Werk, Brücke Museum Berlin, 22 Septemer 1996 - 1st January 1997; Kunsthalle Tübingen, 11 January - 6 April 1997; Kunsthalle Kiel, 27 April - 15 June 1997.
Aya Soika: Ein Südseeinsulaner in Berlin, in: Die Brücke in der Südsee, Exotik der Farbe, Saarlandmuseum Saarbrücken, 22 October 2005 - 8 January 2006, black and white illu. 41 on p. 74.

LITERATURE: Georg Biermann, Max Pechstein, in: der Cicerone, year 10, 1918, issue 17/18, black and white illu. before p. 263 (title: "Romnay" [sic!]).
Georg Biermann, Max Pechstein (= Junge Kunst, vol. 1), Leipzig 1919, black and white illu., no. p. (title Romnay, Palau" [sic!]).
Georg Biermann, Max Pechstein (= Junge Kunst, vol. 1), Leipzig 1920, 2nd edition with different images, black and white illu without p. (title: "Romnay, Palau" [sic!]).
Collection of Josef von Sternberg. Modern paintings and drawings. Notable modern sculptures. African and Asiatic primitive sculptures and bronzes, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, auction 22 November 1949, lot 74 (with label on stretcher).
Josef von Sternberg: Das Blau des Engels. Eine Autobiographie, Munich/Paris/London 1991, black and white illu. 60 (a photo from the 1930s that shows Sternberg with the Pechstein paintings in his collection, "Ronmay can be seen in upper right" ).
Barbara Lülf, Die Suche nach dem Ursprünglichen, in: Max Pechstein. Sein malerisches Werk, Brücke Museum, Berlin 22 September 1996 - 1st January 1997; Kunsthalle Tübingen, 11 January - 6 April 1997; Kunsthalle Kiel, 27 April - 15 June 1997, black and white illu. 17 on p. 95.
Aya Soika, Ein Südseeinsulaner in Berlin, in: Die Brücke in der Südsee. Exotik der Farbe, Saarlandmuseum, Saarbrücken, 22 October 2005 - 8 January 2006, black and white illu. 41, p. 74.
Aya Soika, Max Pechstein. Das Werkverzeichnis der Ölgemälde, vol. I, p. 68, with illu. 3.11.
Aya Soika, Der Traum vom Paradies. Max und Lotte Pechsteins Reise in die Südsee, published on occasion of the exhibition of the same name at Kunstsammlungen Zwickau, Max-Pechstein-Museum, 9 July - 3 October, 2016, p. 86 with illu.

Between 1912 and the early 1920s the Berlin art dealer Wolfgang Gurlitt, from whose possession this painting originates, was one of the most important patrons of Max Pechstein and the progressive art of the Brücke group. He presented the first “Brücke“ exhibition in his gallery on Potsdamer Straße in April 1912 and showed 42 paintings at Pechstein‘s first solo show in January 1913. On occasion of this event Ada Nolde, wife of Emill Nolde, noted down: "Berlin is making a big fuss about Pechstein‘s exhibition at Gurlitt. He‘ll soon be crowned the darling of all Berliners." (Quote after Soika, vol. I, p. 19). Wolfgang Gurlitt supported Pechstein‘s journey to the South Sea, on which the artist embarked with his wife Lotte in spring 1914, with 10,000 Marks advanced money. In September the same year the couple arrived at Palau, a group of around 300 small islands in the Pacific Ocean. Pechstein was deeply impressed by both nature and the lifestyle of the natives. As World War I had broken out Japanese troops landed on Palau in October 1914 and Pechstein had to leave the island world where he had found temporary realization of his ideal of man in untouched nature. He wrote to his artist friend Alexander Gerbig: "The Japanese really drove me away from my paradise soon after I had come to realize that Palau exceeded all my expectations.Areal gem, but the signs of the war were there even upon my arrival." (Quote after Soika vol. I, p. 22). In this expressive work Pechstein portrayedRonmay, one of the daughters of chief Eibedul, from his memories of the paradisaical place after his war deployment. Apart from our marvelous work Pechstein dedicated several passages of his travel diary to his encounter with Ronmay. In 1927 he eventually published an erotically charged account of his painting session with the exotic beauty under the title "Ronmay mit der Hibiskusblüte" (Ronamy with the Hibiscus). The exotic appeeal of the portrayed lady, the brilliant colors and the expressive line must have been the reasons for the American film director Josef von Sternberg to buy this work in 1929 while he was shooting the movie "TheBlue Angel" with Marlene Dietrich in Berlin. Up until 1949 it was part of his prominent art collection and was shown to the public on several occasions.
Hermann Max Pechstein
Ronmay, 1917.
Oil on canvas
€ 200,000 / $ 226,000
€ 450,000 / $ 508.499

(incl. 25% surcharge)

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