Öl auf Leinwand, 66 x 47 cm unsigniert, Gmelin G 173 verso: Christuskopf, Nr. 149
Hans Georg Gmelin, Hermann Stenner 1891 - 1914, Munich 1975, Werkkatalog p. 146, G150 resp. p. 148, G173 (Picture list Hans Hildebrandt, Stuttgart 1918, typoscript, no. 145); Hans-Michael Herzog, Farbigkeit im Spannungsfeld von Komposition und Intuition. Zum Malerischen Werk von Hermann Stenner, in: exhib. cat. Hermann Stenner, Kunsthalle Bielefeld 1991, p. 20, 22 and p. 93 with full-page colour illus. (Christuskopf)
In 1913, at the age of 22, Hermann Stenner was already registering remarkable successes, and that year brought him numerous opportunities to exhibit his work. Oskar Schlemmer opened a little avant-garde gallery in Stuttgart in 1913: the opening exhibition exclusively presented works by Schlemmer, Stenner and Willi Baumeister. He additionally participated in the “Juryfreie Kunstschau” in Berlin and was able to exhibit his work in Munich at Max Dietzel's “Neuer Kunstsalon”; his work was also included in exhibitions in Halle, Essen and Bielefeld.
One year earlier, in 1912, Stenner had created his first religious painting: “Heiliger Antonius”. It stood at the beginning of a group of paintings featuring Christian content, in the course of which Stenner projected himself ever more strongly into his subject matter and found his way to an individual, expressive style. His pictorial engagement with religious themes reached a peak in 1914 with his contribution to the wall paintings for Cologne's Werkbund exhibition, which he carried out together with Schlemmer and Baumeister and whose theme was the life of Saint Ursula.
In Stenner's oeuvre, the year 1913 is defined by forceful pictorial rhythms and intense colour schemes featuring strong tonal contrasts. These characteristics culminated in the “Christuskopf” presented here. This work displays an extreme expressiveness: the half-length figure of the Man of Sorrows realised in blue and black conveys his passion in the most intimate manner. The face situated frontally in the centre of the painting has a mask-like quality, the eyes lie within deep cavities - Stenner was, in fact, fascinated by masks and he also adopted a mask-like abstraction and chromatic denaturalisation of the faces in a few of his portraits, for example, in the paintings “Grüne Frau mit gelbem Hut” and “Frau mit Masken” created in the same year. The aureole in yellow and orange, which surrounds the head of Christ and brightens the surrounding space into a glowing green, contrasts strongly with the colours in the figure of Christ.
The “Damenbildnis” created one year later on the reverse side of the canvas displays an entirely different character and was one of Stenner's last paintings. The subject of the portrait is Clara Bischoff, the painter's girlfriend. This 21-year-old dancer is immortalised in a number of works from that period. “He painted the ethereal 'Damenbildnis (Studie in Blau)', for which Clara also posed as the model, on the reverse side of the painting 'Christuskopf', which had been created in the previous year and was - with its unusual blue tonality and woodcut-like, suffering expression - among the artist's most expressive works. However, the opposite occurs in the head of a woman on the reverse side: like an icon, he has transfigured it on to an unreal and visionary plane, with passing clouds casting their shadow on it, so that it seems to become one with the transparent blue of the ether.” (Karin von Maur, in: exhib. cat. Schloss Achberg 2007, op. cit., p. 116).