Max Herman Pechstein was born in Eckerback, Germany, and studied at the School of Applied Arts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. In 1905, he was awarded the Saxon State Prize for painting. The following year, he met Erich Heckel and joined the Die Brücke group in Dresden.
Pechstein traveled in 1908 to Paris, where he met the Fauve artists and exhibited with the Société Anonyme. In 1909, Pechstein joined the Berlin Sezession and exhibited with them the same year. After the war, Max Herman Pechstein became one of the most active of the politicized Expressionist artists. During the early days of the Weimar Republic, he founded the Novembergruppe (along with Tappert, Klein and others), became a member of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst, and produced posters and illustrations for the Werbedienst (Publicity Office) of the provisional government.
During the 1920’s he exhibited widely, and in 1932 he received the State Prize of the German Government. Max Herman Pechstein was forbidden by the National Socialists to exhibit in Germany after 1933, and he was dismissed from his teaching position. In 1937 his works were confiscated by the Nazi’s and labeled “degenerate,” and six of his paintings were included in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition.