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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

 (1880 - 1938)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was active/lived in Germany, Switzerland.  Ernst Kirchner is known for Expressionist painting, drawing, printing.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

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Biography from the Archives of askART

Ernst Kirchner was born in Dresden, Germany in 1880. The son of an engineer in a paper plant, Kirchner studied architecture at his father's insistence, but switched to painting as soon as he got his diploma.  In 1905 he and three former fellow students set up a studio in an empty Dresden butcher shop and proclaimed themselves leaders of a new movement they called Die Brucke (The Bridge). The members endlessly read French and German philosophers, drank into the night, took midnight swims with their female  models, absorbed everything in museums and galleries.  In 1911, they moved to Berlin.   

Kirchner had developed a style of his own; he had begun painting the famed street scenes that were to be his forte. As a German expressionist, his works were both romantic and subjective. His paintings were elegant with long and pointed figures done in quick jagged strokes.  His color was arbitrary, used to express a mood.       

In 1914, after volunteering for the artillery, Kirchner had a nervous breakdown and was found  to be suffering from tuberculosis.  From then on, his life became a battle against alcohol, dope and in his last years, the Nazis.  In 1937 the Nazis removed six hundred thirty-nine of his works from German museums; thirty-two were displayed in the notorious Munich exhibit of "degenerate art".  Less than a year later, in 1938, at the age of fifty-eight, Kirchner ended his life by shooting himself.   

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Time Magazine, December 5, 1960

Biography from Auctionata
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was a German painter, graphic artist and sculptor and became famous at the beginning of the 20th century co-founding the artist group 'Brücke'. Today Kirchner is one of the protagonists of Modern Art and his work is represented in the collections of numerous national and international museums.

Born in Aschaffenburg in 1880, Kirchner started to study architecture in Dresden in 1901 where he and his colleagues Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl founded the artist group 'Brücke'.  The programme of 'Brücke' was published one year later: […] 'Jeder gehört zu uns, der unmittelbar und unverfälscht das wiedergibt, was ihn zum Schaffen drängt.' (1906)  Further artists amongst others Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Kees van Dongen and Otto Mueller joined the group. 

Kirchner is especially known for his famous series of depictions of Berlin ('Straßenszenen') – he captured the pulsating life of the metropole just prior to the First World War.  In 1918 after years of suffering because of war and disease a new chapter in Kirchners' life began moving into a small farm house located close to Davos.  In Switzerland the artist focused on the surrounding country and the people and painted the alpine landscape, the country life and the locals. 

Kirchner wasn't only a painter and a graphic artist but also worked as a sculptor and produced even furniture.  The National Socialists defamed his work as "degenerate" in 1937 and confiscated all of his artwork which was on display in public museums. Kirchner committed suicide in 1938.  The artist left behind a large oeuvre and his typical expressive style marked by color, shape and surface.

Biography from Richard Rhoda Fine Art
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880, Aschaffenburg, Bavaria - 1938, Davos, Switzerland) was the son of a Dresden paper plant engineer. In 1901 he began to study architecture at the Technische Hochschule (technical school) in Dresden. He continued his studies in Munich from 1903/04 and finished his degree in Dresden in 1905. Together with fellow students Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl, Kirchner founded the artists association Brücke in June 1905 and committed himself to painting, drawing and printing.

In 1906 he met Doris Große, who became his favorite model until 1911. He spent the summers between 1907 and 1911 in Goppelen, Germany and on the island of Fehmarn with members of the "Brücke". In his work he focused on the female nude in nature, expressed in strong, colorful and impulsive images.

Kirchner moved to Berlin in 1911 and founded the MUIM (Modern Teaching of Painting) with Max Pechstein, in order to pass-on new artistic convictions and demands. The school was open for only a year and in 1913 Kirchner wrote the Chronik der Brücke (chronicle of the Bridge modern artist's group), which caused the association's break-up. His first exhibition as an individual artist at the Museum Folkwang in Essen established his work as a part of the contemporary artistic scene.

Between 1913 and 1915 Kirchner painted a famous series depicting the German Großstadtbilder (metropolis), in which he captured the pulsating life of modern Berlin in hectic brushstrokes. In 1914 Kirchner voluntarily joined the military service. Following a nervous breakdown Kirchner was released from the army at the end of 1915, and from 1916 to 1917 he recovered in the sanatoriums of Davos, Switzerland. In 1918 Kirchner moved to Davos permanently, lived in a farm house in the Alps and mainly focused on depicting mountain scenery until the end of his life.

Various exhibitions in 1920 introduced his work to a wider public in Germany and Switzerland. Kirchner moved to Wildboden, Austria in 1923. A substantial exhibition of his work shown at an art gallery in Basel prompted the Swiss painters Paul Camenisch, Albert Müller and Hermann Scherer to found the artists' association Rot-Blau (red and blue). The later 1920s were characterized by great artistic success for Kirchner. His first monograph was published in 1926 as was the first part of a catalogue raisonne of his graphic work. An extensive exhibition was staged in Davos and an important commission for murals in the Folkwang Museum followed in 1927. In 1928, Kirchner took part in the Biennale in Venice. In 1931 he became a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts.

The Nazis defamed his work as "degenerate" in 1937 and confiscated all of his paintings, which were on display in public museums. Kirchner committed suicide on 15th July 1938.

Saint Louis Art Museum, MO
Pinakothek der Moderne, München, Germany
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Stiftung Stadtmuseum, Berlin
Neue Galerie, New York City
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.


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About  Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Born:  1880 - Aschaffenburg, Bavaria, Germany
Died:   1938 - Frauenkirch/Davos, Switzerland
Known for:  Expressionist painting, drawing, printing