Between 1906 and 1912 the Brücke group sent an annual portfolio of prints to its “passive members”—friends and supporters who helped finance the artists’ work. Through these portfolios, artists could circumvent intermediaries of the art market, such as dealers and galleries, and communicate directly with patrons. Each installment was dedicated to the work of one artist. The fifth portfolio features prints by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, alternating between urban scenes of licentious delight and views of the idyllic Moritzburg lakes, which the Brücke artists frequently visited.
Erich Heckel’s title page shows two nudes kneeling on a stage. A schematic section of geometric voids and solids represents a row of spectators, while the garish yellow paper suggests the glare of the lights. Kirchner’s color woodcut, Mit Schilf werfende Badende (Bathers throwing reeds), shows nudes moving freely in nature. His black-and-white woodcut, Tänzerin mit gehobenem Rock (Dancer with raised skirt), transports this key theme of the liberated body to a Dresden cabaret. Kirchner exploits the stark contrasts and reductive possibilities encouraged by the woodcut medium, heralding the severely angular style of the group’s last years. In the final drypoint, Drei Badende an den Moritzburger Seen (Three bathers at the Moritzburg lakes), Kirchner creates a scene of peace and harmony using the most limited formal means, capturing the spontaneity and freedom the artists discovered at rural retreats.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.