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Hommage à Johann Sebastian Bach


Flute with window. 1927
Oil on canvas
Measurements unknown
Location unknown


In spring 1925, Oskar Moll's œuvre was exhibited in a retrospective held by the Breslau Society of Art-lovers. In the autumn of that same year, he was appointed director of the Breslau Academy of Art. Following an intensive period of light, airy Impressionism and vivid Fauvist colours, both these events may have prompted Moll, a former pupil of Matisse, to start experimenting with "a kind of Cubism", as he put it.

Without making a theoretical study of Cubism in its typical form as practised by Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Moll assimilated the formal Cubist vocabulary by adopting the technique of collage. Particularly in his still lifes dating from between 1927 and 1930, he worked increasingly with multi-perspective overlapping, thus eliminating the element of space. Objects, as unconnected set-pieces, are sometimes joined together to form a geometric pictorial construction consisting of a network of chequered patterns, grid structures, lines, waves and zigzags, and incorporating numbers, letters or single words.

In "Flute with window", several objects associated with music are crowded together in oblique perspective. The main focus of the composition is a table with a fringed cover, on which a flute lies between its open case and a book of music by J.S. Bach. In an intricate system of lines, planes and forms, the viewer can discern fragments of musical staves and rudimentary forms of a musical clef. With the twofold name "J.S. BACH" framing the arrangement in diagonal and vertical capitals, Moll intends his Cubist painting as a homage to one of the greatest baroque masters in the history of music.

Oskar Moll and his wife Marg were themselves keen classical musicians. Their genteel, beautifully-kept homes in Berlin and Breslau always contained a music room. Besides Johann Sebastian Bach, Moll's favourite composers included Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.  
No details are available on the provenance or the whereabouts of this exceptional painting. Its existence, with title and date, is known only through a black-and-white illustration in an essay on Oskar Moll by the well-known critic and photographer Franz Roh, published in 1929.

Illustration reproduced from: Franz Roh: Das Fenster. Zu Bildern von Oskar Moll. Ein geschichtlicher Durchblick [The window. On pictures by Oskar Moll. A historical perspective] in: Schlesische Monatshefte 6, 1929, p 380