Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was German Expressionist artist, known for his paintings and woodcut prints. Along with fellow artists, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckly and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Kirchner founded Die Brücke group. Together, the Dresden based artists revived woodcut printing, using a primitive, abstracted style.
Old Woman and Young Woman. 1921. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Kirchner was born in Bavaria but moved frequently with his family. In 1901 Kirchner took architecture courses at the Königliche Technische Hochschule, a technical college in Dresden. Kirchner took drawing classes and studied art history, becoming interested in the evolution of modern art. Kirchner soon met classmates Bleyl, Heckly and Schmidt-Rottluff, who shared a similar artistic vision. The young artists had the idea to “bridge” past and present art movements, as a method to create something new. The group could be described as bohemian and socially radical, rejecting their former bourgeois lifestyles.
Clavadeler Mountain Seen from Frauenkirch. 1933. Woodcut. Kirchner Museum Davos
Portrait of Dr. Huggler. 1935. Woodcut. 50 x 35 cm. Kirchner Museum, Davos
In 1913 Kirchner formally ended the already drifting Die Brücke group by penning the chronicle, Chronik der Brücke. After this point, Kirchner started having solo exhibitions in Dresden and Berlin. Kirchner’s life drastically changed after volunteering to serve in the military during World War I. Kirchner suffered a mental breakdown and was diagnosed as alcohol dependent. Kirchner continued to paint and spent the following years exhibiting in Germany and Switzerland.
Untitled, manifesto for Die Brücke group. 1906. Woodcut. 28.8 x 22.2 cm. Museum of Modern Art, New York
By the 1930s the climate in Germany had changed. The Nazis labeled Kirchner’s art as degenerate and many of his works were destroyed. Kirchner’s mental and physical health continued to decline and in 1938 Kirchner took his own life. His reputation was eventually restored and the value of his work has continued to rise. The Kirchner Museum Davoswas established in Davos, Switzerland, where Kirchner lived from 1918 until his death.