Otto Modersohn - Apfelstillleben (Stilllife with Apples), 1925

Oil on painting board

47 x 71 cm / framed 66 x 89 cm
18 x 27 inch / framed 25 x 35 inch

signed bottom left, dated: “O Modersohn 25”

Expertise by Otto Modersohn Museum, Fischerhude

– with handmade craftman’s frame –

N 9375

About the work

A still life with apples – those who are even slightly familiar with the work of Otto Modersohn will know how unusual the choice of this motif is for the artist, who passionately dedicated his entire life to landscape painting and gave it the greatest space in his oeuvre. That Otto Modersohn had mastered the art of the still life with just as much confidence is proven by this composition with apples and tablecloth from the year 1925. The subject, still occupying the lowest place in the hierarchy of the pictorial genres until the 18th century, had developed to become one of the important themes of modern art since the 19th century. It is the unremarkable, everyday objects and the alleged undemanding nature of the genre that repeatedly inspired painters to dedicate themselves to the still life with an extraordinary joy in experimentation and a concentration on painterly qualities within the painting. Foremost among these was Paul Cézanne, who is said to have stated that he wanted to “surprise Paris with an apple”.

With Otto Modersohn too, it is only a few prosaic pictorial subjects that attract the attention of the viewer, not randomly found, but instead very much carefully arranged: the white tablecloth is artfully draped, the clay bowl with fruit is at a slight angle and is flanked by two more apples; all this in an image space that leaves behind the classic central perspective in favour of a deliberate spatial obscurification. This is because, although one also seems to recognise the table edge under the cloth in the left part of the painting, the position of the two individual apples clearly contradicts this – they appear to be on a higher table level. The change of perspective from a pronounced top view with the bowl, as well as a pictorially parallel, lateral view of the individual apples guide the gaze of the viewer and demand undivided attention for each individual pictorial subject. The complementary contrast of red and green, embedded into the brilliant white of the draped tablecloth, intensifies the brilliance of the colours. With the Apfelstillleben (Apple Still Life), Otto Modersohn presents an outstanding painting, into which he deeply infused and individually implemented the laws of modern art.

Text authored and provided by Dr. Doris Hansmann, Art historian

Studies of art history, theater, film and television, English and Romance Languages at the University of Cologne, doctorated in 1994. Research assistant at the Art Museum Düsseldorf. Lecturer and project manager at Wienand Verlag, Cologne. Freelance work as an author, editor and book producer for publishers and museums in Germany and abroad. From 2011 chief editor at Wienand Verlag, from 2019 to 2021 senior editor at DCV, Dr. Cantz’sche Verlagsgesellschaft, Berlin. Numerous publications on the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Otto Modersohn, Stilllife with Apples, 1925, 47 x 71 cm / framed 66 x 89 cm, N 9375
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