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Kirchner part 1
pre WW I

20th Century European Art
20th Century Overview



 Basement / European / Before WW I / Corinth

European Art
Before World War I

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Part 2 of 2 -- The War Years


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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

born: Aschaffenburg, Saxony, Germany; 6 May 1880
died: Davos, Switzerland; 15 June 1938

The Years of World War I

1914 34

Solo exhibition with the Jena Art Association. Kirchner makes new friends in Jena: Botho Graef and his friend Hugo Biallowons, Eberhard Grisebach (1880-1945), Karl Theodor Bluth, and Rudolph and Irene Eucken. He spends summer on the Fehmarn with Erna again.

The First World War begins; Kirchner and Erna return to Berlin. Kirchner reports as an "involuntary volunteer" to be artillery man.

1915 35 The war causes profound panic in Kirchner. He is called up for basic training at Halle an der Saale. A law professor Hans Fehr is his riding instructor there. When Kirchner proves unequal to the pressures put upon him, Fehr proves sympathetic to him and secures him a leave. Eventually he is discharged from the army on the condition that he be treated in a sanatorium. In mid-December Kirchner enters Dr. Oscar Kohnstamm's sanatorium at Königstein in the Taunus region, probably on the recommendation of Botho Graef in Jena.




Kirchner: Self (Double Portrait)

Self Portrait;
Double Portrait
Staatliche Museen
Berlin, Germany

Kirchner: In the Garden Café

In the Garden Café

Kirchner: Dancing Couple

Dancing Couple

Kirchner: The Tent

The Tent
[Interior in Berlin Studio]
Staatsgalerie für moderne Kunst, Munich, Germany

Kirchner: Rhine River Bridge at Cologne

Rhine River Bridge at Cologne
Staatliche Museen
Berlin, German

Kirchner: Two Women on the Street

Two Women on the Street
Düsseldorf, Germany

Kirchner: Dancing School

Dancing School
Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst
Munich, Germany


Kirchner: Graef and Friend

Graef and Friend
Private Collection



In the first half of the year, he stays at the Königstein sanatorium the rest of the year in Berlin. During his third stay at the sanitorium he paints Fehmarn bathing scenes on the hallway of the pump room (destroyed after 1933). In the latter half of the year in Berlin, with Botho Graef in Halle, and in Jena.

First contact with Frankfurt art dealer Ludwig Schames.

At the end of the year he enters another sanatorium in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin. Eberhard Grisebach in Jena and his mother-in-law Helene Spengler in Davos set up a convalescent stay in Switzerland.

1917 37

Kirchner's first stay in Davos then he returns to Berlin for a solo show with the Jena Art Association.

The unexpected death of his friend and supporter Botho Graef on 9 April deepens Kirchner's crisis.

In early May he visits Davos for the second time. His doctor. Dr. Luzius Spengler, diagnoses addiction to the veronal and morphine, which Kirchner was given in the German sanatoriums.

Kirchner spends July and August in a cottage at Stafelalp above Frauenkirch, near Davos. He does his first paintings and woodcuts on subjects drawn from Alpine fanning life.

1918 38

Despite his physical weakness, Kirchner does a large number of woodcuts, chiefly portraits of those who visit him or of other patients.

In summer he returns to the Stafelalp. There he does a series of woodcuts after Petrarch. In the autumn he rents "In den Lärchen" (The Larches), a house in Frauenkirch, and settles there.

He is gradually weaned from his morphine addiction by Helene Spengler (who reduces the dosage under instructions from her husband Dr. Luzius Spengler), and he finally manages to come off morphine in 1921.

Kirchner writes A Painter's Creed and makes the Absalom series of woodcuts. In December he makes the famous woodcut portrait of Ludwig Schames, which the Frankfurt Art Association distributes to members—Kirchner's only graphic work printed in a large edition.

1919 39

In January, Kirchner's printing press reaches Davos from Berlin. He does his coloured woodcuts Moonlit Night in Winter and Pines. His major themes are now mountain life and landscape. He also carves furniture for his home, including a bed for Erna and two reliefs for the studio door.

In the autumn, he writes an essay under the pseudonym of Louis de Marsalle on his own drawings. It is not published until 1921 in the German periodical Genius. He illustrates Umbra Vitae, a collection of poems by Georg Heym (1887-1912) which is published in 1924.



Kirchner: Dance between the Women

Dance between the Women
Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst
Munich, Germany

Kirchner: Red Tower -- Halle

Market Place with
the Red Tower -- Halle
Museum Folkwang
Essen, Germany

Kirchner: Self as a Soldier

Self as a Soldier
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
Oberlin, OH, US

Kirchner: Artillerymen in the Shower

Artillerymen in
the Shower

Guggenheim Museum
New York, NY, US

Kirchner: Self as a Sick Man

Self as a Sick Man
Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst
Munich, Germany

Kirchner: Alpine Kitchen

Alpine Kitchen
Madrid, Spain

Kirchner:  In the Sunshine

In the Sunshine
Hamburger Kunsthalle
Hamburg, Germany


Kirchner: Self with Cat

Self with Cat
Harvard University Art Museums
Cambridge, MA, US



Eleven More Kirchner Pictures and a bit more biography in the Between the Wars Gallery


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pre WW I

20th Century European Art
20th Century Overview

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