Study of an Agave
  • Christian Rohlfs
  • Groß Niendorf 1849 - 1938 Hagen
  • Study of an Agave, ca. 1931
  • Watercolour over purple chalk, on white paper, small holes from drawing pins
  • numbered and inscribed on the verso by another hand: 75, Agave 1931,
    verso: study of a mountain slope by a lake, with purple chalk
  • 284 × 380 mm

A chronic leg injury following a bad fall from a tree should decisively shape the life of Christian Rohlfs, who was 13 at the time; his attending doctor – a brother-in-law of the poet Theodor Storm – instructed the bedridden boy to draw, in order to combat boredom, and immediately recognized his artistic talent. This activity was henceforth sponsored by his family and friends, which resulted in his being recommended for the Grand Ducal Art School in Weimar in 1870. There, Rohlfs studied with Paul Thumann, and even the amputation of his never-fully-healed leg in 1873 did not deter him from this training. From 1884 on, he worked as a freelance artist in Weimar, and soon turned from Naturalism to Impressionism. In 1901, Rohlfs moved to Hagen at the invitation of his patron Karl Ernst Osthaus, and taught at the Folkwang School in addition to pursuing his artistic work. By 1910 at the latest, Rohlfs finally found his way towards Expressionism, which lent his art its most powerful manifestation.

From 1927-37, Christian Rohlfs regularly traveled with his wife every summer to Ascona, where he rented the Casa Margot directly on the lake. From these months in Switzerland emerged, most notably, drawings and watercolours with nature and plant motives, as our sheet shows in exemplary fashion.

After the 1937 exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in Munich, many of Rohlfs’s works were confiscated – 450 alone from the Christian Rohlfs Museum in Hagen, which had been founded in 1930. Joseph Goebbels in particular was successful in having his minions immediately ban Rohlfs from painting. On 7 January 1938, one day before his death, Christian Rohlfs was ousted from the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Berlin.