Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Street, Dresden. 1908 (reworked 1919; dated on painting 1907) 5230

Oil on canvas, 59 1/4" x 6' 6 7/8" (150.5 x 200.4 cm). Purchase

Curator, Joachim Pissarro: Kirchner and his colleagues in Germany created the language that we know as German Expressionism, a form of modern art that would be the reflection of the modern street life of Germany, of Dresden especially, right before the First World War.

The center stage of this composition seems to be occupied mainly by women. You cannot quite make out the contents of their eyes. But as they are so readily, openly facing us, the viewers, they seem to be offering something to us. And what are they offering, if not themselves?

The figure of the child who occupies absolute center stage within the composition, is she the daughter of these prostitutes? Is she a nice, well brought up child from a bourgeois society? Kirchner doesn’t quite tell us. He just puts together these jarring elements, and it’s up to us to figure out what this mad city is all about.

There is something on the one hand intoxicatingly beautiful with the rendering of these vivacious, high pitched hues that he’s using. At the same time one could say that there’s something slightly nightmarish in the way that he is rendering it.

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