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  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Cover (Bucheinband) from Umbra vitae. 1924
    Cover (Bucheinband) from Umbra...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Cover (Bucheinband) from Umbra vitae. 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Front endpapers (Vorsatz) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Front endpapers (Vorsatz) from...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Front endpapers (Vorsatz) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Title page (Titelblatt) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Title page (Titelblatt) from Umbra...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Title page (Titelblatt) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Title vignette (Titelvignette) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Title vignette (Titelvignette)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Title vignette (Titelvignette) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Umbra vitae (headpiece, page 1) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Umbra vitae (headpiece, page 1)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Umbra vitae (headpiece, page 1) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The War (Der Krieg) (headpiece, page 3) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The War (Der Krieg) (headpiece, page...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The War (Der Krieg) (headpiece, page 3) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Morgue (Die Morgue) (headpiece, page 5) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Morgue (Die Morgue) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Morgue (Die Morgue) (headpiece, page 5) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Seafarer (Die Seefahrer) (headpiece, page 10) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Seafarer (Die Seefahrer)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Seafarer (Die Seefahrer) (headpiece, page 10) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Garden of the Mad (Der Garten der Irren) (headpiece, page 12) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Garden of the Mad (Der Garten der...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Garden of the Mad (Der Garten der Irren) (headpiece, page 12) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. With a Pointed Head He Rises (Spitzköpfig kommt er...) (headpiece, page 13) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    With a Pointed Head He Rises...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. With a Pointed Head He Rises (Spitzköpfig kommt er...) (headpiece, page 13) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. All Landscapes Have... (Alle Landschaften haben...) (plate, page 14) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    All Landscapes Have... (Alle Landschaften...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. All Landscapes Have... (Alle Landschaften haben...) (plate, page 14) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. With Travelling Ships (Mit den fahrenden Schiffen) (headpiece, page 15) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    With Travelling Ships (Mit den fahrenden...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. With Travelling Ships (Mit den fahrenden Schiffen) (headpiece, page 15) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Moon (Mond) (headpiece, page 17) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Moon (Mond) (headpiece, page 17)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Moon (Mond) (headpiece, page 17) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Cities (Die Städte) (headpiece, page 19) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Cities (Die Städte)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Cities (Die Städte) (headpiece, page 19) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Sea Cities (Die Meerstädte) (headpiece, page 20) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Sea Cities (Die Meerstädte)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Sea Cities (Die Meerstädte) (headpiece, page 20) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Castles (Die Schlösser) (headpiece, page 21) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Castles (Die Schlösser)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Castles (Die Schlösser) (headpiece, page 21) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The City of Agony (Die Stadt der Qual) (headpiece, page 22) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The City of Agony (Die Stadt der Qual)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The City of Agony (Die Stadt der Qual) (headpiece, page 22) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mad I (Die Irren I) (headpiece, page 24) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Mad I (Die Irren I) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mad I (Die Irren I) (headpiece, page 24) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mad II (Die Irren II) (headpiece, page 26) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Mad II (Die Irren II) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mad II (Die Irren II) (headpiece, page 26) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Reclining Figure (The Mad III) (Liegende [Die Irren III]) (headpiece, page 27) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Reclining Figure (The Mad III) (Liegende...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Reclining Figure (The Mad III) (Liegende [Die Irren III]) (headpiece, page 27) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mad III (Die Irren III) (tailpiece, page 29) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Mad III (Die Irren III)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mad III (Die Irren III) (tailpiece, page 29) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Curse Against the Cities V (Verfluchung der Städte V) (headpiece, page 30) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Curse Against the Cities V (Verfluchung...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Curse Against the Cities V (Verfluchung der Städte V) (headpiece, page 30) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Kata (headpiece, page 31) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Kata (headpiece, page 31) from...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Kata (headpiece, page 31) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The City (Die Stadt) (headpiece, page 32) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The City (Die Stadt) (headpiece, page...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The City (Die Stadt) (headpiece, page 32) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Joyfulness (Fröhlichkeit) (headpiece, page 33) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Joyfulness (Fröhlichkeit)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Joyfulness (Fröhlichkeit) (headpiece, page 33) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Night (Die Nacht) (headpiece, page 34) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Night (Die Nacht) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Night (Die Nacht) (headpiece, page 34) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Dying Faun (Der sterbende Faun) (headpiece, page 35) from  Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Dying Faun (Der sterbende Faun)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Dying Faun (Der sterbende Faun) (headpiece, page 35) from  Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Half Sleep (Halber Schlaf) (headpiece, page 36) from  Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Half Sleep (Halber Schlaf)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Half Sleep (Halber Schlaf) (headpiece, page 36) from  Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Winter (Der Winter) (headpiece, page 37) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Winter (Der Winter) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Winter (Der Winter) (headpiece, page 37) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Blind Women (Die blinden Frauen) (headpiece, page 38) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Blind Women (Die blinden Frauen)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Blind Women (Die blinden Frauen) (headpiece, page 38) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Night III (Nacht III) (headpiece, page 39) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Night III (Nacht III) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Night III (Nacht III) (headpiece, page 39) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The New Houses (Die neuen Häuser) (headpiece, page 40) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The New Houses (Die neuen Häuser)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The New Houses (Die neuen Häuser) (headpiece, page 40) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Simson (headpiece, page 41) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Simson (headpiece, page 41) from...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Simson (headpiece, page 41) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Yards Invited Us... (Die Höfe luden uns ein...) (headpiece, page 42) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Yards Invited Us... (Die Höfe...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Yards Invited Us... (Die Höfe luden uns ein...) (headpiece, page 42) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Misty Cities (Die Nebelstädte) (headpiece, page 43) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Misty Cities (Die Nebelstädte)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Misty Cities (Die Nebelstädte) (headpiece, page 43) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. All Soul's Day (Allerseelen) (headpiece, page 44) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    All Soul's Day (Allerseelen)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. All Soul's Day (Allerseelen) (headpiece, page 44) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Birds (Die Vögel) (headpiece, page 45) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Birds (Die Vögel)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Birds (Die Vögel) (headpiece, page 45) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Deaf II (Die Tauben II) (headpiece, page 46) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Deaf II (Die Tauben II)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Deaf II (Die Tauben II) (headpiece, page 46) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Infernal Last Supper (Das infernalische Abendmahl) (headpiece, page 48) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Infernal Last Supper (Das...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Infernal Last Supper (Das infernalische Abendmahl) (headpiece, page 48) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. My Soul (Meine Seele) (headpiece, page 52) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    My Soul (Meine Seele) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. My Soul (Meine Seele) (headpiece, page 52) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Dancer in the Cameo (Die Tänzerin in der Gemme) headpiece, page 55) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Dancer in the Cameo (Die...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Dancer in the Cameo (Die Tänzerin in der Gemme) headpiece, page 55) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Hour of Death (Hora mortis) (headpiece, page 56) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Hour of Death (Hora mortis)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Hour of Death (Hora mortis) (headpiece, page 56) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Pilate (Pilatus) (headpiece, page 57) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Pilate (Pilatus) (headpiece, page 57)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Pilate (Pilatus) (headpiece, page 57) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Garden (Der Garten) (headpiece, page 58) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Garden (Der Garten) (headpiece...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Garden (Der Garten) (headpiece, page 58) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Judas (headpiece, page 59) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Judas (headpiece, page 59) from...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Judas (headpiece, page 59) from Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mass (Die Messe) (headpiece, page 61) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    The Mass (Die Messe) (headpiece, page...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The Mass (Die Messe) (headpiece, page 61) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Hymn (Hymne) (headpiece, page 62) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Hymn (Hymne) (headpiece, page 62)...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Hymn (Hymne) (headpiece, page 62) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Nude in the Landscape (Akt vor Landschaft) (headpiece, page 63) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Nude in the Landscape (Akt vor...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Nude in the Landscape (Akt vor Landschaft) (headpiece, page 63) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Reclining Nude (Liegender Rückenakt) (tailpiece, table of contents) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). (1905, published 1924)
    Reclining Nude (Liegender Rückenakt)...
    (1905, published 1924)
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Reclining Nude (Liegender Rückenakt) (tailpiece, table of contents) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). (1905, published 1924)
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Back endpapers (Vorsatz) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924
    Back endpapers (Vorsatz) from...
    1924
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Back endpapers (Vorsatz) from Umbra Vitae (Shadow of Life). 1924

About this illustrated book

Iris Schmeisser, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner illustrated the 1924 reprint of Umbra Vitae (Shadow of life), a posthumous collection of Georg Heym's Expressionist poems that was first published in 1912, the year of the poet's premature death, at age twenty-four, by drowning. Kirchner, who owned a copy of the earlier edition and knew the poems very well, designed all of the elements himself, including the 46 woodcuts throughout the book; the color woodcuts on the cover, the frontispiece, and the front and back endpapers; and the bold grotesque typography (fette Groteskletter). The illustrations, printed in a blacklike brown, serve as visual correlatives to Heym's hauntingly poetic images of "life's shadow." The dark side of life—death, war, madness, alienation, loneliness, and anxiety—was a recurrent theme in Heym's poetry.

The book's forty-three poems had been compiled by Heym's friends from the Expressionist literary group Der Neue Club (The new club) in Berlin. Ernst Rowohlt, in Leipzig, published the first edition. Editor Hans Mardersteig, on behalf of publishing house Kurt Wolff in Munich, invited Kirchner to illustrate the reprint. The book is titled after one of Heym's poems.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, 1880–1938)

The Illustrated Book

Umbra vitae (Shadow of Life)

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Author:
Georg Heym
Date:
1924
Medium:
Illustrated book with fifty woodcuts
Dimensions:
page: 9 1/16 x 6 1/8" (23 x 15.6 cm); overall: 9 5/16 x 6 7/16 x 1/2" (23.6 x 16.4 x 1.2 cm)
Paper:
Cream, smooth, laid (except cover and endpapers).
Publisher:
Kurt Wolff Verlag, Munich
Printer:
Spamersche Buchdruckerei, Leipzig
Edition:
510 (10 numbered 1-10 on Japan; 500 numbered 11-510)
Credit Line:
The Louis E. Stern Collection
Reference:
Not in Sch. Dube (H)759-807 and 61 II. Rifkind 1474. Jentsch 152.
MoMA Number:
861.1964.1-50
Themes:
Literary Subjects, Primitivism

Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 52

It was within the artists' group Brücke (Bridge), founded in 1905, that Ernst Ludwig Kirchner formulated his views on art and established a visual language. Together with other core members—Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Pechstein, and, briefly, Emil Nolde—Kirchner sought a new spirit of freedom and authenticity that rejected both the stultifying traditions of the academy and the restrictive conventions of bourgeois society. Brücke artists felt that art could respond to essential life forces with spontaneity and immediacy through such subjects as the nude in nature or figures dancing with frenzy and abandon. Sharing studios and models, teaching each other techniques, and even vacationing together, they evolved a common style that first embraced the fluidity of Fauvism and then turned to the energy and angularity of tribal art for inspiration.

Printmaking was fundamental to Brücke activities, and annual portfolios of prints were published to help the artists gain recognition and produce income. For the most part, however, members' prints were experimental in nature and made with only a few proof impressions. Kirchner continued this unstructured approach to printmaking even after the dissolution of Brücke in 1913, eventually creating some two thousand works, primarily in his own studio.

During World War I, after briefly training in the mounted artillery, Kirchner suffered a mental collapse. His depiction as an isolated figure is seen in Evening Patrol of 1915. His series of prints of this period, entitled Schlemihl Meets His Shadow, is also considered the embodiment of his anxiety and paranoia, conditions that would continue to plague him, along with ill health, for the remainder of his life. In 1938, after being ostracized from German art circles by the Nazis, and having hundreds of his paintings removed from museums and declared "degenerate," Kirchner ended his own life.

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