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Max Gehlsen, A virtual exhibition

A German artist in the Great War

Max Georg Heinrich GEHLSEN born on 6 May 1881 at Büttel an der Elbe (Schleswig-Holstein). He was trained in art at the Kunstgewerbeschule (decorative arts school) in Altona. He was married on 9 August 1914 at Horneburg (Lower Saxony) to Anna Schmidt

Called up in late September 1914, he was transferred to the front at Oise on 23 October. He stayed there for close to one year, between Beuvraignes, Margny-aux-Cerises and Beaulieu-les-Fontaines. From November 1915 to September 1916, his regiment fought on the Artois front, before then moving into Flanders from November, after several days on the Somme. Returning to Artois the following year, it is believed he was gassed. He stayed in Hamburg in May 1917, a time when he painted a portrait of his mother.

In February-March 1919, Max GEHLSEN displayed some of his works during an exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, entitled : Jury-free exhibition of fine arts works demobilised from military service, in Hamburg, Altona and the surroundings . This exhibition did not, unfortunately, meet the expected success, and for many years the watercolours did not leave the folder in which they were filed away, until they were acquired by the Pas-de-Calais Department in 2009. The catalogue for the 1919 exhibition was however retained at the Kunsthalle until today.

At the end of the 1920s, Max GEHLSEN moved towards a form of experimental abstraction of synaesthesia, painting, in which he aimed to represent a musical track, such as for instance Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner. He died on 9 March 1930 at Hamburg Altona.

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