Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig

Bathers at Moritzburg
oil on canvas
151.1 x 199.7 cm
The Tate Gallery, london, UK

"A painter paints the appearance of things, not their objective correctness, in fact he creates new appearances of things." (Kirchner )

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 - 1938) was known for his energetic and emotive works, differentiated by an audacious use of colors, the vigor, and angular moulds. He wanted to avoid and stay away from existing creative traditions. He charted a new road, leading to fresh ideas and the novel modes of artistic expression, while cutting through the gap between the old & the new as well. He suffered a complete mental and physical collapse after being called up for service during World War I; he then settled in Switzerland, hoping the mountain air would cure mind and body. He turned to painting the high Alps, with bold colors and coarse brushwork, suggesting man at peace with nature-an ideal that contrasted sharply with his own wartime experience.

He was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the key artists group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. The group aimed to eschew the prevalent traditional academic style and find a new mode of artistic expression, which would form a bridge between the past and the present. They responded both to past artists such as Albrecht Durer, Matthias Grunewald 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.

He was born in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria. He studied architecture in Dresden. After finishing his studies, however, he opposed his father's wishes and decided to become a painter. In 1911, he settled in Berlin and founded a private art school with the aim of promoting the modern teachings of painting. Although the venture did not last long and ended the following year, here he discovered new motifs - city and street scenes. He painted them in a simplified manner, with sharply contoured forms, expressive features and clashing colors. The city paintings became incunables of Expressionism and made Kirchner one of the most important German artists of the 20th century.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he volunteered for the military service, but left it soon enough suffering a nervous breakdown. He was released from the army at the end of 1915. In 1917, he left Germany for Switzerland, to settle in Frauenkirch near Davos. He lived in a farm house in the Alps, and mainly focused on the depiction of mountain scenery until the end of his life. There he was  appointed as the member of Prussian Academy of Fine Arts. Around 1920 his painting style calmed down, his paintings had a carpet-like two dimensionality. In 1923 he moved to the "Haus auf dem Wildboden" at the entrance of the Sertig Valley. In 1933, he was labelled a "degenerate artist" by the Nazis, 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 Sertig Valley home, led him to commit suicide on June 15, 1938.