ABOVE: Alexander Max Koester (1864-1932) . Seven Ducks . Oil on canvas, 24" x 32" (61 x 81 cm) in a Private Collection
About Alexander Koester. Like the Impressionists, Alexander Max Koester was intrigued by the fleeting play of light on rippling water, leaves in the wind and the rhythmical qualities of ducks moving in gracious formation, giving his paintings a distinctly lyrical quality. It is likely no coincidence given that Koester was an accomplished violinist and collector of the instrument.
The artist attracted attention from the moment that he first exhibited a painting of ducks in Berlin in 1899. For Koester it was not just ducks as wildlife that were of interest, but also the effects of sunlight on the bird’s feathers in varying shades of white, beige, and grey. His work feels spontaneous yet is the result of careful study, recording the fleeting movements of atmosphere and animal. In the present work, Koester takes an elevated viewpoint that pushes the horizon to the top of the frame, directing the viewer’s focus to the group of ducks and their jump from the dock before serenely swimming in the water. Like an Impressionist picture, Entem am Steg captures a moment in time as if spied by a passerby our for a morning walk through a garden.
Despite stylistic parallels with the works of the French Impressionists and German avant-garde artists, Koester’s pictures also evidence a deep-felt love and respect for nature and the birds he spent a lifetime capturing on canvas; whereas his contemporaries in France, for example, might have reduced the birds to no more than dabs of paint, Koester, true to his academic training, always gave them an individual character and presence of their own. In these works, subject and technique were a perfect complement to one another. As one contemporary reviewer wrote, “the pleasure derived from these amusing web-footed birds can be explained by admiring the loose plumage, the orange beaks, the reflections in the water, the sunshine, and bluish reflexes in the air-a wealth of technical challenges” (translated from the German as quoted in Stein and Koester, p. 47).