Max Peiffer Watenphul. From the Bauhaus to Italy


from 28 September 2023 to 10 March 2024

The Museum Casa di Goethe in Rome dedicates a retrospective exhibition to a singular artist of modernism, Max Peiffer Watenphul (Weferlingen, 1896 – Rome, 1976), curated by Gregor H. Lersch, Director of the Museum.

Restless, independent, eclectic, lawyer first, artist later, student at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Peiffer Watenphul moved in the avant-garde circles of the 1920s. He was a painter of cities and landscapes, a passionate photographer of subjects with queer identities and an incessant traveller, especially after one of his paintings was exhibited at the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition in 1937.

He travelled extensively in Europe, Africa and Mexico, moved dozens of times to many German cities, had a residency in Rome, at the German Academy of Villa Massimo Rome in 1931-1932, then lived in Venice, Salzburg and, after 1945 with the crossing of the Austrian-Italian border through the mountains on foot, he moved to Italy to live with his sister, who had married an Italian, and again travelled and stayed in Venice, Tuscany and Rome where he died in 1976 and where he rests, buried in the Non-Catholic Cemetery.

Produced in collaboration with the Kunstsammlungen in Chemnitz, Museum Gunzenhauser, the exhibition at the Museum Casa di Goethe traces the persistence of Bauhaus ideas in his painting and photography work, following Max Peiffer Watenphul’s path from Germany to Italy and contextualising his work in the tradition of German artists in Italy and the Sehnsucht of Germans for the Bel Paese.

Paintings by Otto Dix and Alexej von Jawlensky and Oskar Schlemmer from Peiffer Watenphul’s personal collection are exhibited as evidence of the relationship with artists of the time.

The exhibition includes a site-specific installation by Ruth Beraha (Milan, 1986) inspired by Max Peiffer Watenphul’s painting Still Life with Flowers, which was exhibited at the 1937 Munich Degenerate Art exhibition and was lost.

On Tuesday 28 November 2023, at 7p.m., Elizabeth Otto, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University at Buffalo, NY), author of the essay “Haunted Bauhaus”, will hold the lecture “The Photography of Max Peiffer Watenphul and the Queer Bauhaus”.

The exhibition catalogue, published in German and Italian by ELECTA, is edited by Gregor H. Lersch (Director of the Casa di Goethe and curator of the exhibition), Frédéric Bußmann (General Director of the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz) and Anja Richter, (curator and director of the Museum Gunzenhauser, Chemnitz) with essays by Florian Korn, Anja Richter and Michael Semff.



Max Peiffer Watenphul. From the Bauhaus to Italy

Fotos of the works and exhibition views