Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Nude in Tub, 1911, Oil on canvas, 76 x 70 cm, Kunsthalle zu Kie.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Rider with Overturned Horse, 1928-29, Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm, Courtesy Galerie Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach / Bern, Estate of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Schlemihl’s Encounter with the Shadow, Colored woodcut on blotting paper, 57 x 41.7 cm, Städel Museum, Graphische Sammlung, Frankfurt am Main, From the series Pictures for Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl (6 parts and title page), 1915.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, die Brücke, the Berlin Street, WWI Existentialism

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Stafelalp in Fog, 1918, Oil on canvas, 71 x 80.5 cm, Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg, loan from the Bayerische Landesstiftung.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Winter Night Moon; Längmatte at Moonset, 1919, Color woodcut on smooth vellum, 36.7 x 32.4 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Photo: U. Edelmann – Artothek.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Frankfurt Cathedral, 1926, Oil on canvas, 80,7 x 70,5 cm, Kunstmuseum Bonn.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Women Bathing (triptych, central panel), 1915/25, Oil on canvas, 196 x 171 cm, Kirchner Museum Davos.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Nude with Raised Arms, 1910, Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 66 cm, Galerie Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern,

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Portrait of Erna, 1916-17, Oil on canvas, 70.5 x 60.5 cm, Kirchner Museum Davos, donated by Rosemarie and Konrad Baumgart-Möller in commemoration of Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, 2000.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Self-Portrait with a Girl; Double Portrait with Erna, 1914-15, Oil on canvas, 60 x 49 cm, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Varieté; English Dancers, 1909/26, Oil on canvas, 151 x 120 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Photo: U. Edelmann - Artothek.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Artiste; Marcella, 1910, Oil on canvas, 101 x 76 cm, Brücke-Museum, Berlin.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Head of a Sick Man; Self-Portrait, 1918, Woodcut on wove paper, laminated, 58.8 x 43.4 cm, Städel Museum, Graphische Sammlung, Frankfurt am Main.


die Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
+ 49-69-605098-0
Frankfurt am Main
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Retrospective
April 23-July 25, 2010

"I am amazed by the power of my pictures in the Städel”, Kirchner noted in his diary on 21 December 1925. His relationships to the Städel and Frankfurt were close. Not only did one of the very first Kirchner exhibitions take place in Frankfurt in 1916;

in 1919 the Städel was also the first museum ever to purchase a painting by this artist. For the coming show, the museum’s own Kirchner collection — among the most prominent in the world due to the numerous major works it encompasses — will be enhanced by examples from every stage of the artist’s career. His paintings and works on paper will be placed side by side with his sculptures and crafts objects to convey the multi-faceted character of his oeuvre.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), founding member of the artists’ group "Brücke” and one of the most important representatives of Expressionism, exerted a formative influence on Classical Modern art. The Städel Museum will pays tribute to the oeuvre of this painter, graphic artist and sculptor by assembling 170 of his works in the first Kirchner retrospective to take place in Germany for 30 years.

Naturally, the show presents works from the classical phases of the "Brücke period” with its depictions of nudes, compositions of the Berlin years — primarily street scenes — inspired by big city life, paintings reflecting the existential fears sparked by World War I, and the Davos works with subjects taken from the world of the Swiss Alps.

These will be joined, however, by less-well-known examples from Kirchner’s early and late periods. The latter, highly controversial works in the so-called New Style, are surprising by virtue of their uncompromising two-dimensionality and extreme abstraction; in Frankfurt they are on display in their entirety along with his chief works for the first time.

What is remarkable in this context is the fact that, in his early work, the artist was inspired primarily by French art. The retrospective will grant a new perspective on Kirchner’s astonishing modernity, and the incomparable manner in which his extravagant lifestyle found expression in his art.

Museums in a wide range of countries — among them the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the Kirchner Museum Davos, the Brücke Museum and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Museum of Modern Art in New York — have agreed to support this exhibition by granting superb loans.

Curator of the exhibition is Dr. Felix Krämer, Städel Museum.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait, ca. 1919, Photograph , Kirchner Museum Davos.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), The Street, 1913, Oil on canvas, 120.6 x 91.1 cm, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Self-portrait, 1925-26, Oil on canvas, 65 x 47 cm, Collection of E.W.K., Bern.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Berlin Street Scene, 1914, Pastel and charcoal on beige-colored corrugated laid paper, 67.7 x 49.3 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Photo: U. Edelmann – Artothek.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Erich Heckel and Model in Studio, 1905, Oil on cardboard, 50 x 33.6 cm, Brücke-Museum, Berlin.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Blond Woman in Red Dress; Portrait of Mrs. Hembus, 1932, Oil on canvas, 150 x 75 cm, Courtesy Galerie Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach / Bern, Estate of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Sad Woman; Standing Female Nude; Nude Girl, 1921, Swiss pine wood, painted, 63.5 x 19.5 x 16.5 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Mother and Child; Woman and Girl, 1924, Swiss pine wood, painted, 88 x 27.5 x 30 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Women Bathing, (triptych, left panel), 1915/25, Oil on canvas, 196 x 66 cm, Courtesy of Galerie Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern, Estate of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Women Bathing (triptych, right panel), 1915/25, Oil on canvas, 196 x 66 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., Gift of Wilhelmina and Wallace F. Holladay, Ruth and Jacob

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Standing Nude with Hat, 1910/20, Oil on canvas, 195 x 64.5 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Photo: U. Edelmann – Artothek.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Wildboden, 1924, Watercolor over pencil on painted cardboard, 35.5 x 45.8 cm, Städel Museum, Graphische Sammlung, Frankfurt am Main.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Reclining Woman in White Chemise, ca. 1909, Oil on canvas, 95 x 121 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), West Harbor, Frankfurt, 1916, Oil on canvas, 84 x 95 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Photo: U. Edelmann – Artothek.


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Marcella, 1909-10, Oil on canvas, 76 x 60 cm, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Photo: Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Seated Girl (Fränzi Fehrmann), 1910, altered 1920, Oil on canvas, 31-3/4 x 35-7/8", The John R. Van Derlip Fund, © Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern.

Kirchner 'Street' Paintings: High Water Mark in German Expressionism

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Dancers, 1909, Woodcut. Portland Art Museum Purchase, Funds Provided by Helen Thurston Ayer. © Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Artillerymen, 1915, Oil on canvas, 55-1/8 x 59-1/8 inches", Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, By exchange, 1988.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Selbstbildnis als Soldat, (Self-portrait as soldier), 1915, Oil on canvas, 69.2 x 61 cm, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gerda Bathing in a Tub (recto); Swiss Landscape with Goatherd (verso), 1912 (recto); about 1920 (verso), Pen and brush with india ink (recto); black crayon and graphite (verso) on cream wove paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Virginia Herrick, Deknatel Purchase Fund, 2003, Accession number: 2003.269a-b.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street Scene, 1913-14, Pastel, 15-3/4 x 11-13/16", Brücke Museum Berlin. © Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Berlin, 1913, Oil on canvas, Purchase. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern.


Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York
Special Exhibitions Gallery, third floor
Kirchner and the Berlin Street
August 3-November 10, 2008

This exhibition is a focused investigation of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s (German, 1880-1938) renowned Berlin Street Scenes of 1913-1915. It features seven major paintings from the series, the first occasion such an extensive group has been brought together.

These works have come to symbolize big city life with all its contradictions, yet Kirchner’s choice of motif was the streetwalker, not the typical urban environment. His paintings embody both allure and alienation by evoking excitement and nighttime glamour, as well as loneliness, decadence, and danger. Joining these paintings are 70 works on paper that further our understanding of Kirchner’s exceptional series of paintings.

These striking paintings are considered not only the high point of Kirchner’s career, but also a milestone in German Expressionism. Kirchner, known as a member of the Brücke artists’ group, had moved in 1911 from Dresden to Berlin, a teeming metropolis and the cultural center of Germany. Here, his Expressionist painting took a new turn and the charged atmosphere of the city was reflected in acute perspectives, jagged strokes, dense angular forms, and caustic color.

The fact that this atmosphere was captured on the eve of World War I only adds to the high-pitched tensions embodied in these paintings.

To contextualize the Street Scene series, this exhibition explores Kirchner’s choice of motif through contrasting examples of his work, including more typical city views and also his various approaches to the eroticized female figure in nudes and cabaret dancers. In addition, the artist’s working process is revealed through sketchbook studies, larger scale works in pen and ink, pastel, and charcoal, as well as etchings, woodcuts and lithographs, all on the theme of the Street Scenes.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was born in Aschaffenburg, Germany. In 1901, he began studying architecture at the Königliche Technische Hochschule (technical university) of Dresden. The institution provided a wide range of studies in addition to architecture, such as freehand drawing, perspective drawing and the historical study of art. He became close friends there with Fritz Bleyl, whom he met during the first term.[3] They discussed art together and also studied nature, having a radical outlook in common. Kirchner continued studies in Munich 1903-1904, returning to Dresden in 1905 to complete his degree.

In 1905, Kirchner, along with Bleyl and two other architecture students, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel, founded the artists group Die Brücke ("The Bridge"). From then on, he committed himself to art.[1] The group aimed to eschew the prevalent traditional academic style and find a new mode of artistic expression, which would form a bridge (hence the name) between the past and the present. They responded both to past artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald and Lucas Cranach the Elder, as well as contemporary international avant-garde movements. As part of the affirmation of their national heritage, they revived older media, particularly woodcut prints.

Their group was one of the seminal ones, which in due course had a major impact on the evolution of modern art in the 20th century and created the style of Expressionism. The group met initially in Kirchner's first studio, which had previously been a butcher's shop. Bleyl described it as: “ … that of a real bohemian, full of paintings lying all over the place, drawings, books and artist’s materials — much more like an artist’s romantic lodgings than the home of a well-organised architecture student.”

Kirchner's studio became a venue which overthrew social conventions to allow casual love-making and frequent nudity. Group life-drawing sessions took place using models from the social circle, rather than professionals, and choosing quarter-hour poses to encourage spontaneity. Bleyl described one such model, Isabella, a fifteen-year-old girl from the neighbourhood, as "a very lively, beautifully built, joyous individual, without any deformation caused by the silly fashion of the corset and completely suitable to our artistic demands, especially in the blossoming condition of her girlish buds."

The group composed a manifesto (mostly Kirchner's), carved on wood and asserted a new generation, "who want freedom in our work and in our lives, independence from older, established forces."

In September and October 1906, the first group exhibition was held, focused on the female nude, in the showroom of K.F.M. Seifert and Co. in Dresden.

In 1906, he met Doris Große, who was his favoured model until 1911. Between 1907 and 1911, he stayed during the summer at the Moritzburg lakes and on the island of Fehmarn (which he revisited until 1914) with other Brücke members; his work featured the female nude in natural settings. In 1911, he moved to Berlin, where he founded a private art school, MIUM-Institut, in collaboration with Max Pechstein with the aim of promulgating "Moderner Unterricht im Malen" (modern teaching of painting). This was not a success and closed the following year, when he also began a relationship with Erna Schilling that lasted the rest of his life.

In 1913, his writing of Chronik der Brücke (Brücke chronicle) led to the ending of the group. At this time, he established an individual identity with his first solo exhibition, which took place at the Essen Folkwang Museum. During the next two years, he painted a series of "Großstadtbilder" (metropole pictures) showing the streets of Berlin, with the central characters of street walkers.

At the onset of the First World War in September 1914, Kirchner volunteered for military service, but suffered a nervous breakdown in 1915 and was discharged, recovering for the next two years in sanatoriums in Taunus and Davos, Switzerland. In a self portrait in 1915, he depicted himself with an amputated hand (this did not actually happen). In 1918, he settled in Davos, living in a farm house in the Alps; from this time onwards his main subject matter was mountain scenes. On July 3, 1919, he wrote in a letter from Davos, "Dear Van de Velde writes today that I ought to return to modern life. For me this is out of the question. Nor do I regret it.... The delights the world affords are the same everywhere, differing only in their outer forms. Here one learns how to see further and go deeper than in 'modern' life, which is generally so very much more superficial despite its wealth of outer forms."

His reputation grew with several exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland in 1920. In 1923, he moved to Frauenkirch-Wildboden. The art gallery in Basel staged a substantial exhibition, which led to the foundation of the "Rot-Blau" (red and blue) artists association by Swiss painters, Paul Camenisch, Albert Müller and Hermann Scherer. Kirchner made his final visit to Germany 1925-1926. His reputation grew through the rest of the decade with a monograph and the first part of a catalogue raisonné of his graphics in 1926, a mural commission by the Folkwang museum in 1927, and a presence at the Venice Biennale in 1928; he became a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1931.

In 1933, Kirchner was labelled a "degenerate artist" by the Nazis and asked for his resignation from the Berlin Academy of Arts; in 1937, over 600 of his works were confiscated from public museums in Germany and were sold or destroyed. In 1938, the psychological trauma of these events, along with the Nazi occupation of Austria, close to his home, led to his suicide.

In 1913, the first public showing of Kirchner's work took place at the Armory Show, which was also the first major display of modern art in America. In 1921, U.S. museums began to acquire his work and did so increasingly thereafter. His first solo show was at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1937. In 1992, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, held a monographic show, using its existing collection; a major international loan exhibition took place in 2003. In November 2006 at Christie's, Kirchner's Street Scene, Berlin (1913) fetched $38 million, a record for the artist.

Kirchner and the Berlin Street was organized by Deborah Wye, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books, The Museum of Modern Art

Deborah Wye has worked at The Museum of Modern Art since 1979. She has organized more than 25 exhibitions for MoMA on a range of subjects. Among these are the first sculpture retrospective of Louise Bourgeois in 1982 and that artist’s first print retrospective in 1994. Other exhibitions include Multiplex: Directions in Art, 1970 to Now (2007-08); Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples, 1960 to Now (2006); Artists & Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art (2004-05); The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910-1934 (2002); Collaborations with Parkett: 1984 to Now (2001); Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Print Collecting (1999); Joan Miró’s Red and Black Series (1998); Pollock and Printmaking (1998); Chuck Close Editioned Work (1998); Thinking Print: Books to Billboards (1996); Joan Miró: Prints and Books (1993); Antoni Tàpies in Print (1992); and Committed to Print: Social and Political Themes in Recent American Printed Art (1988).

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Potsdamer Platz, 1914, Oil on canvas, 78-7/10 x 59-1/10", Inv. VI 48.850, Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany, © Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY. Photo: Joerg P. Anders, © Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern.


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Girl Under a Japanese Parasol, c. 1909, Oil on canvas, 92.5 x 80.5 cm, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.