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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

German, 1880–1938

Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011

Painter, printmaker, sculptor. One month before earning his architecture degree in Dresden in 1905, founded Brücke artists' group with university friends Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff; assumed leadership role with his strong personality, talent, and ambition. During early years, concentrated on nudes in the studio, urban nightlife, and portraits. During summers spent with other Brücke artists and models at Moritzburg Lakes from 1909 to 1911 and Baltic island of Fehmarn from 1912 to 1914, created many works depicting nudes moving freely in nature. From 1910 was increasingly influenced by African, Indian, and Oceanic art. Moved to Berlin in 1911, with other Brücke artists, but the group dissolved in 1913. From 1913 to 1915 created dramatic Berlin Street Scenes paintings, marking a career highpoint. In 1915 enlisted as an "unwilling volunteer" and became driver for artillery regiment; suffered a mental and physical breakdown, and was discharged as unfit for military service. Convalesced in various sanatoriums, then settled in mountains of Switzerland, where the landscape and villagers became a favored subject.

Was passionately engaged with printmaking throughout his career, making more than two thousand prints in woodcut, etching, and lithography; took an innovative approach, printing almost all of them himself in tiny editions, and often achieving unique and unorthodox effects.

In 1937 Nazis removed 639 paintings from public collections; the following year, he took own life by gunshot.

Selected Bibliography

Dube, Annemarie, and Wolf-Dieter Dube. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Das graphische Werk. 2 vols. Munich: Prestel, 1980.

Gercken, Günther, and Magdalena M. Moeller. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Farbige Druckgraphik. Exh. cat. Berlin: Brücke-Museum, 2008.

Krämer, Felix, ed. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Retrospective. Exh. cat. Frankfurt: Städel Museum, 2010.

Lloyd, Jill, and Magdalena M. Moeller, eds. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1880–1938. Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2003.

Wye, Deborah. Kirchner and the Berlin Street. Exh. cat. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008.

Heather Hess

Works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

  • Not on view Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Chestnut Tree in the Moonlight (Kastanienbaum im Mondlicht). (1904)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Chestnut Tree in the Moonlight (Kastanienbaum im...
    (1904)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Chestnut Tree in the Moonlight (Kastanienbaum im Mondlicht). (1904)
  • Not on view Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life)
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Not on view Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Reclining Nude (Liegender Rückenakt) (tailpiece, table of contents) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). (1905, published 1924)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Reclining Nude (Liegender Rückenakt)...
    (1905, published 1924)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Reclining Nude (Liegender Rückenakt) (tailpiece, table of contents) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). (1905, published 1924)
  • Not on view Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Signet/title vignette of the Brücke Artist's Group (Signet/Titelvignette Künstlergruppe Brücke). (1906)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Signet/title vignette of the Brücke Artist's...
    (1906)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Signet/title vignette of the Brücke Artist's Group (Signet/Titelvignette Künstlergruppe Brücke). (1906)
  • Not on view Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Manifesto of the Brücke Artists' Group (Programm der Künstlergruppe Brücke). (1906)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Manifesto of the Brücke Artists' Group...
    (1906)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Manifesto of the Brücke Artists' Group (Programm der Künstlergruppe Brücke). (1906)
  • Not on view Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Girl Before a Mirror (Mädchen vor Spiegel). (1907)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Girl Before a Mirror (Mädchen vor Spiegel)
    (1907)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Girl Before a Mirror (Mädchen vor Spiegel). (1907)
  • Not on view Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Still Life (Stilleben) from the portfolio Brücke 1908. 1907, published 1908
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Still Life (Stilleben) from the portfolio...
    1907, published 1908
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Still Life (Stilleben) from the portfolio Brücke 1908. 1907, published 1908
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