Ernst Ludwig Kirchner German, 1880-1938

Overview

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was a German painter, engraver and sculptor, founder of the movement Die Brucke, he is a key figure of German expressionism. His characteristic and powerful use of bold color and angular woodlike figures translated the social and psychological effects of ideological and political tensions in early 20th century Germany.

Biography

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner grew up in Chemnitz in the region of Saxony (Germany),  and was admitted to the architecture section of the Superior technical School of Dresden in 1901. He briefly attended Swiss sculptor Hermann Obrist’s art school in Munich from 1903 to 1904, before returning to Dresden where he founded the movement "Die Brücke" (the bridge) in 1905 along with Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl, which was soon also joined by Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde, Cuno Amiet and Akseli Gallen-Kallela in 1906, and Otto Mueller in 1910.

 

Attracted very early on by the art of engraving, Kirchner first drew on the knowledge of Albrecht Dürer and Félix Vallotton, before discovering African and Oceanic art at the Ethnographical Museum of Dresden. Fascinated by this primitivism he assimilated and exploited like a kind of dynamic source in order to renew German art, he continued to be deeply affected by it for the rest of his life, not only in his engraved and sculpted wooden pieces but also indirectly in his paintings.

 

He left for Berlin in 1911 and discovered cubism through the intermediary of Lyonel Feininger, he starts to lengthen his shapes and develops a more angular drawing style. After having painted several nudes in natural settings during his Dresden period, Kirchner experienced a certain feeling of confinement after his arrival in the German capital city, he took interest in street scenes, the circus and the cabaret.

Drafted in 1915, he succumbed to depression and was reformed.

 

In 1917 he moved to the Davos region in the Swiss Alps, which granted him the primitive contact with nature he had always been seeking in both his life and his works. Nudes in the middle of Nature again became parts of his thematics as well as Alpine landscapes.

 

In 1937, the Nazi government seized 639 of his works and Kirchner killed himself a few months later in 1938.