Karl Schmidt-Rottluff Houses at Night 1912

  • Not on view

Along with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff was a founding member of Die Brücke (The Bridge), a group of artists who responded to urban alienation and the turmoil of modern life with exaggerated, sometimes caustic imagery. Schmidt-Rottluff reduced figures and scenes to their simplest forms in order to produce what he considered authentic expression.

In Houses at Night, he presents an empty street lined with buildings, whose sharp angles and diagonals and glowing colors imbue what otherwise might be a quiet scene with intensity and energy. The jutting geometrical shapes in this painting are similar to those in the disorienting set design for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a popular Expressionist film made several years later, in 1920. The film’s director, Robert Wiene, took advantage of the distorted perspective of Expressionist painting to evoke the anxiety of a town plagued by a sleepwalking murderer.

Oil on canvas
37 5/8 x 34 1/2" (95.6 x 87.4 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bareiss
Object number
© 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Painting and Sculpture

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Purchased from the artist by Gertrud Woermann (1862-1945), Hamburg [1]; to Irma Woermann-Roosen (1895-1982), Hamburg, by 1917 [2]. Acquired by Martha Rauert (1869-1958), Hamburg, by 1956 [3]; Galerie Änne Abels, Cologne [4]; Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson) and the New Gallery (Eugene Victor Thaw), New York, by 1957; acquired by exchange by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1957.
[1] Collection files (artist's questionnaire), Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Date of acquisition unknown.
[2] Likely received from her mother, Gertrud Woermann, as a wedding present in 1916. Included in the exhibition Ausstellung von Werken neuerer Kunst aus Hamburger Privatbesitz, Hamburger Kunsthalle, November 11-December 2, 1917.
[3] Will Grohmann, Schmidt-Rottluff, Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1956), p. 285: "1912, Nächtliche Häuser, 19.5 x 86.5 cm; Frau Martha Rauert, Hamburg."
[4] Collection files (artist's questionnaire), Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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