Max Pechstein was born in 1881 in Zwickau, Germany. Apprentice decorator, he studies at the school of applied arts (Dresde), where he meets architect W. Kreiss and O. Gussmann. Later attends the Dresden Kunstakademie 1902-1906), and studies under O. Gussmann. In 1906 he meets E. Heckel and joins Die Brücke. He works with the group until 1910, especially with L. Kirchner, painting en plein air. He travels to Rome and Paris (1908), where he meets the Fauves. He moves to Berlin, exhibits in the Berlin Secession (1909), and is among the founders of the Neue Sezession. He and Kirchner open a painting school. In 1912, due to his contacts with the Berlin Secession group, he is expelled from Die Brücke.
Pechstein is influenced by Gauguin, and his interest in Oceanic art takes him to the South Seas (1914). He paints in pure colors in a very flat style. He is commissioned to design stained-glass windows and to decorate private homes (1920). Pechstein becomes a member of the Preussische Akademie der Künste (1924), he also teaches at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin. In 1933 his work is declared as degenerate art. Several of his paintings are exhibited at the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937. He is expelled from the Preussische Akademie der Künste (1934), and is not allowed to teach. After WWII he is appointed professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in West Berlin. Pechstein dies in 1955.