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Max Gehlsen, A virtual exhibition

The Max GEHLSEN Collection

Methods and motivations for acquisition

In 2009, the grandson, through marriage, of Max GEHLSEN, wished to part with the watercolours produced by the artist, as had been retained by the family for several decades. Online he discovered the quarterly journal edited by the Alexandre Villedieu Museum in Loos-en-Gohelle, available in German. Interested by the Association’s work, he offered to sell the watercolours to his representatives (over 200 watercolours in total), as well as the six artist scrapbooks, written when he was in the Somme.

Due to being unable to ensure conservation and restoration and digitisation of the work, the Association sold the watercolours to the Region, through a partnership agreement to ensure their promotion. This collection allowed for better comprehension of heritage and how a German soldier lived the Great War and to enrich knowledge of the conflict in an original manner.


Brief summary of the collection content

The Max GEHLSEN collection primarily comprises watercolours. It does, however, include some sketches and scrap books, written early in his stay in France, in the Somme and the Oise. These scrap books also include personal photographs of the author: They represent the locations where Max GEHLSEN lived in Germany, and the places visited in France. Several of these also show various moments during the war.

The sketches in the Collection are drafts, pre-drafts, and some are completed watercolours. The watercolours, over 200 of them, have retained their bright and pastel colours as they originally had. For the most part, they represent rural or urban views. They grant a large amount of their imagery to natural landscapes, but also showcase religious or private buildings affected by damage. A large amount of the watercolours represent panoramic views, villages, hills and factories. Conflict is itself under-represented aside for artillery combat.


Location of Departmental archives

The Max GEHLSEN Collection is conserved in the Departmental Archives in the Pas-de-Calais, at the Mahaut d’Artois Centre, located in Dainville. The collection is a part of the iconographic archives. It is listed under sub-series 47.

Enlarge Image Max GEHLSEN, Church at Bellonne, 22 June 1917, watercolour on cardboard, 11 x 16 cm

Max GEHLSEN, Church at Bellonne, 22 June 1917, watercolour on cardboard, 11 x 16 cm

Departmental archives of Pas-de-Calais 47 FI 128_1