10.01. – 15.02.2020
the Early Years
For his whole life Max Peiffer Watenphul is passionate about painting. At the age of seventeen he begins to teach himself painting. After completing his doctorate in canon law and a legal clerkship at the Hattingen district court in 1919, at the age of 23, he decided to pursue the path of a painter and to give up jurisprudence. The imagery of these early creative years is simple, almost trivial. It shows what surrounds the painter. One feels reminded of New Objectivity. But despite all the precision, Peiffer Watenphul does not describe unemotional. He creates another reality which is his personal. Often mysterious and melancholic, magical and surreal. The large-scale image structure, the strong colours and the deliberately naive implementation of the subjects are reminiscent of Matisse and Rousseau. In autumn 1919 he starts to study at the State Bauhaus in Weimar. He takes the preparatory course with Itten. With Gropius’ permission, he is allowed to attend all workshops. During this formative period in Weimar, which lasts until the summer of 1922, he is known with Klee, Feininger, Kandinsky and Albers and close friends with Schwitters, Schlemmer, Marcks, Lasker-Schüler, Gilles et al.
Already as a student, he gains financial independence through a contract with Alfred Flechtheim, who runs a gallery in Düsseldorf. Through him he also becomes a member of the artist association “Das Junge Rheinland”, which was related to Johanna Ey. In 1921 the Folkwang Museum Essen shows his first exhibition in a museum and Flechtheim his first solo show in a gallery. Max Peiffer Watenphul is in his mid-twenties. Most of the paintings and watercolours shown here date from the time at the Bauhaus and the subsequent work stays in Salzburg, Vienna, Rome, Düsseldorf and his home town of Hattingen. These early works are part of a self-contained work period that appears to have matured around 1923. Image-defining earthy to bright shades and a flat density, which determine the deliberately naively described subjects, are replaced by an increasingly light, airy atmosphere with lighter, even colourful, motif descriptions. In the summer of 1924, Peiffer Watenphul travelled to Mexico for more than half a year. The folk art of Mexico inspires him and cities and landscapes stimulate him to create a new visual language. Peiffer Watenphul has been a traveller all his life – whether because of an inner urge or because of the turmoil of the war. In particular, the light of Italy and the Mediterranean landscape should are his most important inspirations – here he finally lived from 1946 until his death in 1976. Spiritual exchange with other creatives and the examination of visual art are also very important. But his own work remains independent and refuses to be assigned. He is neither a “typical” Bauhaus artist in early years, nor is he influenced by abstract trends in art in the post-war period. Rather, he consistently connects his inner imagery with the one that surrounds him.