Kirchner and the Berlin Street

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 Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. c. 1910. Postcard. Thomas-ullstein bild/The Granger Collection, New York

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. c. 1910

Postcard. Thomas-ullstein bild/The Granger Collection, New York
Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

Narrator: Welcome to Kirchner and the Berlin Street, an exhibition of seminal works by the German expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Deborah Wye, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Chief Curator of the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books here at MoMA, will be your guide on this audio program.

Curator, Deborah Wye: The main purpose of the exhibition is to bring together a series of paintings that Kirchner made between 1913 and 1915. This is the first time that these works will be shown together in one place.

We call them the Berlin Street Scenes, but they're really pictures of streetwalkers. Kirchner chose these women as a kind of symbol of the modern city as a metaphor of modern life as the 20th century unfolded. So all the contradictions of modern life, the excitement and dangers, the crowds and the hubbub, as well as the loneliness and alienation that people feel – all of that is really encompassed in the paintings themselves.

The series is considered the high point of his career—but also a high point of German expressionism, one of the most important movements in the formulation of modernism at the beginning of the 20th century.

Narrator: Kirchner’s series is showcased here along with related prints and drawings that demonstrate the artist’s working process as this series evolved in a period of rapid expansion, leading up to and during World War I. Also included here is a group of contrasting works by Kirchner that highlight his unusual choice of the streetwalker as primary motif in his street scene paintings.

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