Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

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Every now and then the art world often gets marked by tragedy, and it doesn’t get any more tragic then the legendary and loner artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Having a life marked with tragedy often overshadows the glorious work this artist did before he took his own life. Today he is remembered as the tortured soul who created some beautiful art before leaving the world too soon. Kirchner was one of the founding members of the Die Brucke or The Bridge group, which focused on laying down the foundation of Expressionism in the 20th century. He is regarded as one of Germany’s most influential and talented artist today. The German painter and printmaker was a bit of an enigma, he had conflicting feelings about the past, present, spirituality and authenticity. Caught right in the middle of the Nazi occupation Kirchner also feared for humanity’s soul in general. Kirchner was instrumental in reviving the old tradition of wood-cut art and at the same time he rejected the old styles of woodcutting and was more attuned to modern ideas.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was born in 1880 in Aschaffenburg in Germany. Kirschner’s family’s moved around a lot during his childhood before eventually settling in Chemnitz. Kirchner started off studying architecture in Dresden, where he produced his first woodcuts and the form of graphic art. For Kirchner woodcutting and painting were on the same par. Kirchner formed the Die Brucke group in 1905 along with five other Dresden students. The group was interested in experimenting with new styles of painting, the aim of the group was to bridge the gap between the past and present. Despite painting landscapes and street scenes the human figure remained the main subject matter of most of Kirchner’s art. Apart from the central human figure there was also a strong flair of bohemian life in the paintings, and for Kirchner the human figure’s movement was more important than the face. Kirchner was of the opinion that the human body had a better form of expression and vitality then the face.  Take for example his simply title painting Marzella, the painting is basically a female form in nude but covered with just the right arm angles sitting in an almost bourgeois like environment. Kirchner uses a blend of dark colors for the features of the female and light colors for the environment and background.

Another great work of Kirchner’s is the Street, Berlin. The painting depicts a scene in the streets of Berlin; the only catch is the street is the street of prostitutes. There is a central female figure dressed as a lady in very extravagant colors – kind of obvious to the viewer’s eye that she is a street walker. While her face is happy and doesn’t hide anything – she is neither shy nor unafraid of showing who she is – the men’s expressions are sullen. There are many themes to the painting, from provocation, to sensuality, Berlin’s extravagant lifestyle and an anxious energy. All these can be sensed from the painting, only Kirchner had the ability to evoke too many emotions into one single canvas. Kirchner served for a while during the War but a nervous breakdown forced him to leave and depression drove him to settle down in Switzerland. Despite continuing to paint, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner ventures further into depression and became cut-off from German art and society. All this eventually lead to him taking his own life in solitary confinement. A huge loss not only for Germany but for the art world, to lose an artist who could have gone on to produce more masterpieces.

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