Otto Mueller

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Otto Mueller
Standing Female Nude; verso: Standing Female Nude (faint preliminary sketch)
ca. 1927
Blue crayon on wove paper; verso: Green crayon.
26 5/8 x 19 3/4 inches (67.5 x 50.3 cm)
Bequest of Fred Ebb.

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Mueller was member of the Brucke group of German expressionist artists. Although his art showed many of the formal characteristics of that style -- angular shapes, jagged lines, and solid colors applied in flat surfaces -- its mood was softer and more lyrical, in contrast with the intensity of the work of his peers. His ideal was the simplicity of early Greek art and ancient Egyptian painting. One of his contributions to the group was his rediscovery of the technique of distemper, a water-based paint that could be easily applied in thin layers over large surfaces and was typically used for flat wall painting and decoration. Figure drawing remained predominant throughout his life. The slender proportions of the model in this sheet are typical of his depictions of women and harken back to the sixteenth-century anatomical canon of Lucas Cranach's Venuses, much admired by his peers. In Mueller's quick, linear sketch, the model appears to be in motion, in a style popularized by Rodin and adopted by the Brucke artists as a means to express greater spontaneousness and directness. At the same time, her pose is reminiscent of the conventional representation of movement in Egyptian painting, notably in the raised left forearm and in the depiction of the feet in quasi profile. Mueller's sense of structure -- his predilection for creating harmonies by balancing horizontal and vertical forms -- is evident in the addition of a rectangular shape in the background. This form does not refer to anything in reality, but its symmetry sustains the equilibrium and stability of the drawing as a whole.


Signed at lower left, in graphite pencil, "Otto Mueller"; verso: Inscribed in graphite pencil, "Stehender weiblicher Akt".

Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin; Galerie Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich, "27. Auktion, 23 May 1978, no. 1505, repr.; Scott Elliott, Chicago; from whom acquired by Fred Ebb, New York.
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