Weimar winners: Rare Expressionism on auction at Ketterer-Kunst

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Dorte Clara Wolff, known as Dodo, “Nächtliche Konversation,” circa 1920s. Watercolor over pencil on firm woven paper, 11.8 x 10.4 inches. Signed lower right. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 4,500 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst. 

PARIS — It’s not for nothing that it was dubbed “Expressionism.” The German Expressionist art featured in Ketterer-Kunst’s June 9 – 11 Munich auctions, primarily a collection of 47 works being sold by a German corporation whose offices some of the works have decorated for more than 40 years, offers not only brilliant colors by the likes of Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Herman Max Pechstein, and Otto Dix, as well as work by Paul Klee, Matisse, Chagall, and Georges Braque but art that also reflects the literary brilliance that marked the Weimar period, here chiefly distinguished by woodcuts and work in other mediums such as chalk and watercolor which retain the woodcut aesthetic.

germankandinskysmWassily Kandinsky, “Holzschnitt für den Almanach ‘Der Blaue Reiter,'” 1912/1914. Galvano print after a blue and black woodcut. On firm woven paper, 10.9 x 8.3 inches. (Sheet: 11.4 x 8.5 inches.) Wrapper trimmed. One of a total 2,200 copies. Issued as galvano print on the board wrapper of the general edition of the first and second edition of the influential almanac “Der Blaue Reiter,” published by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in Munich in 1912 and 1914. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 2,500 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.

Ketterer-Kunst’s selection also shows the expertise of a “local” house, meaning that the artists available are not just the usual suspects (Dix, Ernst, Beckman, Nolde), but painters and water-colorists less renowned in the international realm. For instance, you may already know about Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Horseman), a group that exhibited together, with Vassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and Auguste Macke at its nucleus, but also produced an almanac, in which the color blue featured prominently. And you may be familiar with the dance-inspired work of Kirchner, here represented by, among other lots, a color chalk study of the pioneering modern dance choreographer Mary Wigman and her dancers. Kirchner might be seen as Wigman’s Degas. Like the choreographer and like the painter, in his studies he was often working out questions around the female body. As Roman Norbert Ketterer points out, Kirchner’s dance images from the period 1926 – 32 represented “efforts to free himself from the actual model and arrive at a more geometric,  abstracted” perception of the body.” Even if the dancers he painted were clothed, Kirchner would sometimes envision them nude. (Das Werk Ernst Ludwig Kirchners. Lugano: Galerie Ketterer, 1980. Cited by Toepfer, Karl. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1997.)

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, “Wigman – Tanz,” 1926. Colored chalk on brown woven paper, 14 x 18.5 inches. Estate stamp of the Kunstmuseum Basel (Lugt 1570b) on reverse side, as well as the hand-written registration number “Fs Da/BE 32.” Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 10,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.

The revelation in this Ketterer-Kunz auction is Dodo, or as she was born, Dorte Clara Wolffe (1907 – 1998). If being a woman wasn’t already enough of an impediment to recognition in an early-twentieth century art world which still primed men, Wolffe was also Jewish, which limited her possibilities in Germany in the late 1930s. But it’s for neither of these reasons that we recommend her. In its vibrancy as well as the drama of the scene depicted, the watercolor “Nächtliche Konversation,” created in the 1920s, simply stands out. And, like much great art, it is only the beginning of the story, the viewer left to continue the tale.  — Paul Ben-Itzak

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Emil Nolde, “Family,” 1917. Woodcut on copper plate printing board, 8.6 x 12.2 inches (sheet 12.4 x 16.9 inches). Signed, one of presumedly 16 copies. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 7,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.

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Richard Ziegler, “Mond über Pietà,” 1923. Oil on canvas, 23.8 x 17.9 inches. Monogrammed (in ligature) and dated lower left. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 9,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.

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