The prize was established in agreement with Max Pechstein (1881–1955) in 1947 – the year the expressionist artist became an honorary citizen of his home town. Initiated by Pechstein the prize was initially meant to support young artists only. Between 1963 and 1984 the city of Zwickau had to forego its awarding in favor of the art prize of the district Karl-Marx-Stadt (today Chemnitz). The first Honorary Award for the complete oeuvre of a renowned contemporary artist was awarded in 1993. Besides the Advancement Award the city of Zwickau honors artists once in six years with the Max Pechstein Honorary Award. The award winner has the chance to present his or her work on the occasion of the award ceremony in an exhibition in the KUNSTSAMMLUNGEN ZWICKAU Max-Pechstein-Museum.
Hartwig Ebersbach, born in 1940 in Zwickau and now living in Leipzig, has won the Max Pechstein Honorary Award of the city of Zwickau in fall 2017. The next honorary award will be awarded in 2023.