Erich Heckel - Phlox, 1921

Watercolour and opaque colours over pencil on paper

59 x 46 cm / framed 82 x 67 cm
23 x 18 inch / framed 32 x 26 inch

signed, dated, titled “Erich Heckel 21 Phlox”

N 9453

About the work

Erich Heckel painted still lifes in each phase of his work – across decades in all techniques, with changing motifs, varying pictorial conceptions and painting styles, and with an ever-renewed passion for the genre of inanimate things. In the process, he arranged exotic artefacts and furniture, fruits and flowers, bowls and vases, wall paintings and fabrics into decorative ensembles.
The subject experienced its first highpoint in the work of the Expressionist painter at the beginning of the 1920s. The First World War, characterised by convulsions and deprivations, was now behind him, and a new reckoning of time, a new phase of life and work had begun. The symbolic character of the wartime still lifes, with withered plants and sombre interiors, now especially made way for floral paintings characterised by a renewed turning toward existence, a reawakening of vitality and lust for life These also include the “Phlox” watercolour of 1921. The modest repertoire of objects is quickly listed: a thick-walled, black vase with its own branch of blossoms on a small table with blue tablecloth, next to it a small stack of books, the top one open. The composition is on the other hand quite complex. When one looks more closely at the composition on which the sheet is based, one can distinguish a diagonal that leads from the top left to the bottom right corner of the painting and divides the area into two triangles that each follow a different conception of form: while quiet, large areas dominate the bottom left half of the page, the right half is dominated by small, individual pictorial structures, by a lively play of lines and forms, and is characterised by a weave of colours and patterns, in which flowers and leaves, brushstrokes and decorative ornaments advance to form an animated composition.
However, what is actually impressive and extraordinary about this expert still life is its colourfulness: the fantastic blue, which occupies a large part of the pictorial area. It defines the tablecloth, as well as the large, deep-blue flower umbels of the phlox, which, it is said, reveals its greatest luminosity in the morning and evening hours.

 

 

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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Erich Heckel, Phlox, 1921, 59 x 46 cm / framed 82 x 67 cm, N 9453
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