Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Otto Müller was the last artist to join the Die Brücke Expressionist group in 1910. From the outset he identified with his colleagues’ interest in depicting nudes in landscape settings, which would become a recurring theme in his output. Müller’s personal artistic style can be seen in his depiction of elongated and angular female bodies painted in soft colours and imbued with a highly sensuous naivety that has a certain Romanticism about it. Müller stated in connection with an exhibition at the Galerie Paul Cassirer in Berlin in 1919 that his principal desire was to express man’s feelings in nature with the greatest possible simplicity, and that in order to achieve this he based his paintings on the art of ancient Egypt. This influence is evident in his manner of emphasising the contours of the figures and the sensation of two-dimensionality of his compositions. Furthermore, one of his main contributions to the Expressionist group was the recovery of the tempera medium, which he attempts to imitate in this work on canvas by using very dry oil paint which, together with the particularly coarse texture of the burlap, gives the work the appearance of a fresco painting. His colleague Ernst Ludwig Kirchner stated in Chronik der Brücke that “[Müller] revealed to us the fascination of the tempera medium.”
As Otto Müller never dated his works and his style remained practically unchanged throughout his career, it is difficult to date his paintings. On the basis of a comparison with two lithographs with a very similar composition — one depicting the same scene in reverse, dated ca. 1920, and the other, printed in colour, very similar to the painting and published in 1922 in a folder of prints — Two Female Nudes in a Landscape has been dated to about 1922. That same year Müller was hired as a teacher at Breslau academy, remaining in the post for his whole life.