Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

Male Head


Not on display

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff 1884–1976
Original title
Männlicher Kopf
Object: 343 × 133 × 165 mm
base: 137 × 150 × 165 mm
overall: 480 × 150 × 165 mm
Presented by the executors of Dr Rosa Schapire 1954

Display caption

Schmidt-Rottluff was primarily a painter, but during the First World War he briefly turned to sculpture. This is one of around twelve carvings influenced by African sculpture that he made in 1917–18. Most were heads, and some were painted red, blue or green. Traces of colour around one eye and at the base of the head suggest that this example was originally red.

Gallery label, July 2008

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Catalogue entry

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff 1884-1976
N06250 Male Head 1917
Inscribed 'S. Rottluff | 1917' on back of neck
Wood, 13 ½ x 5 ¼ x 6 ½ (34.3 x 13.3 x 16.5)
Presented by the Executors of Dr Rosa Schapire in accordance with her wishes 1954

Prov: Dr Rosa Schapire, Hamburg and London (purchased from the artist)

Exh: Exotische und moderne Kunst, Kunst- und Museumsverein, Wuppertal, April-May 1968 (14); Pioneers of Modern Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, London, July-September 1973 (190)

Lit: Carl Einstein, Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (Berlin 1928), p.563, repr. p.379 as 'Roter Kopf' and wrongly dated 1918; Will Grohmann, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (Stuttgart 1956), pp.159-61, 251; Gerhard Wietek, 'Dr phil. Rosa Schapire' in Jahrbuch der Hamburger Kunstsammlungen, IX, 1964, pp.140-2, repr. p.141 as 'Männerkopf'

Schmidt-Rottluff's first sculptures were made in 1912 when he carved four reliefs with heads of the Evangelists for the chapel of the Sonderbundausstellung in Cologne. Then during the war, in 1917-18, when he had temporarily given up painting in oils, he made a further twelve or thirteen carvings, including this one. Most were of the head only, and some were coloured red, blue or green. Three which are now in the Brücke-Museum in Berlin are lightly tinted all-over with a thin wash of water-soluble paint, which is only thick, opaque and positive in colour in the hollows around the eyes, nose, mouth and so on.

The present work has the wood stained dark brown. It was reproduced by Einstein in 1928 as 'Red Head', but this was thought to be a mistake until it was removed from its base, when patches of dark red paint were found on the underside. There are also a few small traces of red paint around one of the eyes.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.673, reproduced p.673.


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