Kirchner and the Berlin Street

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. *Somersaulting Acrobatic Dancers (Sich überschlagende akrobatische Tänzerinnen)*. 1913. Woodcut. Comp.: 13 3/8 x 19 1/2" (34 x 49.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. General Print Fund and David S. Orentreich Fund

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Somersaulting Acrobatic Dancers. 1913; Dancing Couple. 1909; Panama Dancers. 1910–11

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Somersaulting Acrobatic Dancers (Sich überschlagende akrobatische Tänzerinnen)
1913
Woodcut. Comp.: 13 3/8 x 19 1/2" (34 x 49.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. General Print Fund and David S. Orentreich Fund. Photograph by Robert Gerhardt Dancing Couple (Tanzpaar)
1909
Lithograph. Comp.: 15 x 12 7/8" (38.3 x 32.8 cm). Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. © Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, New York Panama Dancers (Panamatänzerinnen)
1910-11
Oil on canvas. 19 7/8 x 19 7/8" (50.5 x 50.5 cm). North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. Bequest of W. R. Valentiner

Narrator: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner:

Kirchner (actor): “I begin with movement…I believe that all human visual experiences are born from movement…”

Curator, Deborah Wye: In this section of the show, you'll see a range of Kirchner's exploration of the subject of a cabaret dancer.

These dancers were part of variety shows that the populace went to, cabarets, a kind of inexpensive form of entertainment. And Kirchner and his artist friends loved the vitality and raw emotion that they found in the cabarets and music halls. Often times he sat in the audience with a sketchbook and just did scribbles of the dancers and captured their motions.

So, in this group, you'll see various ways that he accomplished this sense of ecstatic emotion. Sometimes he'll show them kicking their legs, high up. And often he shows their prominent underwear, which underlines the kind of sexual connotations of the dancers. He also focuses on their costumes. The way their skirts would whirl around, and form their own kind of motion.

Sparks seemed to fly, when his dancers do their kicks. And this is almost, I think, ecstasy in a symbolic form. This is a sign language for an unbridled, sexual outlet that is found in dance.

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